I was speaking to a parent who has joint custody and asking him what are the most important things when it comes to co-parenting.
His top three suggestions are:
- Communicating effectively. What causes it to be effective? In writing, concise, neutral, and non blaming. Don’t always respond immediately if you have a reaction that is unfavorable initially. Give yourself time to digest and find a way to respond without reactivity. Keep in mind, what’s best for your children always. Being organized in your communication is also important. Google calendar is effective. There are also coparenting apps like, “My Family Wizard” and “Talking Parents”.
- Be careful about how you speak about the other parent. Never use derogatory or insulting language towards them, especially in front of the children. Let the children draw their own conclusions rather than foisting your own opinion. Children need to feel supported and feel as if they can relax into either relationship without fear of upsetting another parent. Children are also going to model their future relationships on what they observe. Be mindful of what you are teaching them.
- Finding a common ground on expectations at both households. It’s going to take some communication between the parents but make sure your children feel secure in knowing what’s going to happen in each household regarding schedules and activities. The transitions will be a lot smoother if the kids know what to expect.
The items that are problematic:
- Introducing new relationships. Whether it’s uncomfortable or not, having a clear understanding of when the children should be introduced to a new person will stop a lot of conflict. Options are to organize a meeting of everyone before introduction to the children.
- Determining what the rules are going to be at each home. For example, will they make their beds? Will they help with chores? Are there different rules about electronics? Homework? Establing a base line will help the children adapt more easily to both households.
- Finding a way to have a decent relationship with ex inlaws and former friends. You may still run into these people. It’s natural for people to take sides but remember you had a good relationship with them before and try not to be concerned about whose side they are on. Be as cordial as you can be because again, this is what’s best for your children. They don’t need to be privy to tension at sporting events or school events between you and grandparents, family members, or relatives.
Seek Professional Help in Co-Parenting
Co-parenting can work well. You just have to keep in mind, the kids need both parents unless there are extenuating situations. Our courts in Madison County stress coparenting and if you have to do it, make a decision to do it in a way that makes life easier for your children. Incidentally, this will make life easier for you too. Another thing to consider is seeking the help of a professional counselor to discuss the challenges you may be having with coparenting. There are also family law mediators who can help you navigate challenges that arise.