Co-parenting with your ex is often a challenge at times. Even if you have an amicable relationship, it’s tough to parent together when you have two separate households. The logistics of it alone can put a strain on your relationship and make life difficult for everyone. However, if your goal is to be able to successfully raise your children together, you need to work together. Ideally, both of you are on board with making it work and doing your best to provide your children with what they need. However, even if you feel like you’re the only one putting in the work, you can still make a difference.
Work on Effective Communication
Good communication is vital if you want to be able to successfully co-parent with your ex. It can be difficult at times, especially if there is any discord in your relationship, but it’s essential if you want to avoid arguments, misunderstandings, and other problems. It could help to work out some rules for how and when you’re going to communicate with each other. What issues need to be discussed together? When does the other parent need a heads-up about something? Discussing these things can get you off to a good start and help to get you set up for the future too.
It’s not always easy communicating with an ex-spouse or ex-partner. There might be negative feelings, which can make it more difficult for you to communicate openly. However, making an effort to communicate in a clear and civil manner can help to prevent a lot of problems. If you sometimes find it hard to discuss things calmly, you might find it can be easier to use written forms of communication like texting or email. This can help if you need time to cool off when you’re frustrated or angry because you can resist responding right away. However, there are also times when it’s better to communicate in person to avoid being misconstrued or misunderstanding each other.
Think about how you want to be treated in terms of communication. If you would expect to be kept in the loop about an issue, extend the same courtesy to your ex.
Make Plans for Big Occasions
Holidays and special occasions can be matters of contention for co-parents. Who gets to have the children at these times is an important issue to iron out as early as you can. If your relationship is particularly amicable, you might agree to spend these occasions together as a family. However, if you choose to divide them up, it’s a good idea to decide in advance where the kids will be at Christmas, on birthdays, or on any other special occasions. By planning in advance, you can make sure that you come to an arrangement that’s fair to everyone. It also makes it easier to fit in everyone’s plans, and you can agree to trade-off on some occasions too.
Arrange the Right Custody for You
Coming to the right arrangements in terms of custody is a must. The default may be to consider a straight 50/50 split, which can work for some families. But there are times when it might make sense for your arrangement to be different so that it works for everyone. It can definitely be helpful to work with child custody lawyers to help you figure out the best thing to do. Trying to be as fair as possible and doing what’s best for both kids and parents will help you to work out the best arrangement. It might make sense to start by considering what routines you already have in place. If one parent always takes the children to a certain activity, keeping it that way could be the best choice for everyone, even if it means that the time you each have isn’t completely even.
Act with Empathy, Generosity, Respect, and Reason
If you want to co-parent successfully, you need to treat your ex the way that you want to be treated. This might not always be very easy, especially if you feel that there are times they are being unreasonable. But extending empathy and respect toward them can go a long way, and will often help to ensure you get the same in return. There are lots of opportunities for you to be generous and kind too. Encourage your children to make cards for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day or make sure that they talk to their other parent when they are staying with you.
Make Big Decisions Together
There are often big decisions to be made in your child’s life. If you were still together with your ex and you would have made a decision together, it’s also something you should try to discuss together even though you’re no longer together. There might even be decisions that you might not have discussed before, which are now slightly more delicate in nature. These decisions could include many things, especially anything that might affect your child’s future or their happiness, or anything that might involve both parents contributing financially. You might want to discuss things like school choices, going on vacation, or how to handle issues relating to your child’s health.
Discuss Your Parenting Values
Parents should ideally be on the same page as much as possible, even if they’re no longer in a romantic relationship. Of course, you’re never going to be in agreement at all times, but you can do your best to avoid arguments and work together. One of the things that might be helpful is to discuss your parenting values and your hopes for your children. This might be something you’ve discussed before, either before or after having children. But it’s worth talking about it again and confirming how you want to approach parenting.
What matters most to you? What values do you want to instill in your children? What rules do you want to set that you are both expected to enforce? It’s not necessarily realistic to expect that everything will be the same at both of your homes. Even if you were still together, you would likely have different parenting styles. However, you can still discuss where your hard lines are and what boundaries you want to set.
It’s always important to be realistic with your expectations. This can relate to many things, but essentially you should avoid holding your ex to a higher standard than is really possible. Don’t expect them to have exactly the same rules at their house as you have at your house, and don’t expect to always have the final say. Be realistic about the need to compromise on various issues too. There are times when you need to come to an agreement that works for both of you, even if it’s not exactly what either of you originally wanted. Try to be flexible sometimes so that you can work together.
Don’t Put Children in the Middle
Make sure you avoid putting your children between you if you want to be successful at parenting them together. It’s not fair to involve your kids in your issues, especially if you’re trying to use them for leverage. This includes asking your children to choose between you. It’s not always easy to keep things civil between you and your ex, but it’s essential that you don’t let any animosity between you get in the way of being a good parent. Your kids should always come first, so keep that in mind.
Part of communicating well with your co-parent is making sure that you’re accessible. It’s important that they can get in touch with you when they need to, and you won’t ignore them or be too distracted by other things. Of course, there can be occasions when you’re not able to answer them right away. Maybe you have other commitments that mean you can’t give them your full attention, unless it’s an emergency. But you can still try to be as available as you can most of the time. Responding to them as soon as you can shows that you are respectful of their time. However, there is also a balance to be found, especially if you have a co-parent who may be a bit too eager to get in touch all the time, even when it’s not necessary.
Have a Support Network
One of the things that can help you to be a better co-parent is to have a good support network. When you have other people to support you, it means you have people who are willing to listen to you complain, who can give you advice, and who can be a shoulder to lean on. They can also help you to look at situations more objectively, which can make it easier to resolve any disputes you might have with your ex. There are many people who can give you support, from friends or family to support groups or a therapist.
Co-parenting with your ex may be challenging, but it can help to give your children the best experience and ensure you raise them to be the people you want them to be.