A healthy co-parenting relationship is a lot like a fitness journey.
Like your New Year’s resolution to eat healthier and work out, successful co-parenting requires goals.
Goals propel you towards achievement. Achievement boosts your motivation to keep going and helps you track your progress (perhaps even inspiring you or your co-parent to put in more effort for quicker results).
Building and maintaining a successful working relationship with your co-parent takes persistence and positivity. Focusing on the positive keeps you from throwing in the towel when the journey gets tough.
So, what goals can you and your co-parent look forward to and celebrate on your healthy parenting journey? Let’s look at some celebratory milestones on your path to co-parenting excellence.
You may not like each other, but you speak respectfully to each other and never harshly criticize one another in front of your kids. Even if you aren’t on speaking terms (yet), you communicate regularly through your co-parenting app about your child (school and sports events, teachers, grades, etc.). You recognize your co-parent provides love and value to your child, so you keep them updated on your child’s important life events. Your conversations and messages are fair, amicable, and routine.
You and your co-parent exercise proper amounts of control at appropriate times. You accept each other’s autonomy. You have no long-winded, highly emotional, late-night texts. Neither of you is jealous over who the other dates. You follow your parenting plan and custody trade-off schedule a majority of the time. Should a scheduling issue crop up, you promptly communicate the change of plans to your other parent as soon as possible. You keep those changes to a minimum out of respect for your co-parent.
You don’t worry about your co-parent meeting you at the correct pick-up/drop-off locations at the agreed times, and they don’t worry about you. Custody trade goes off without a hitch because you two talk about scheduling issues beforehand and keep track of changes on your parent custody app. Because you are reliable and your custody time is routine, you and your children have less fear and anxiety about custody switches.
You realize that the best plans require flexibility. Routines lay a solid foundation, but structures need some wiggle room to weather the storm. Life is going to life. When it does, you and your co-parent communicate with each other and go with the flow. You both are accommodating, and you don’t sweat the small stuff.
Teamwork makes the dream work. You know the value of collaboration. You discuss new ideas or issues affecting your co-parent with them (i.e., taking a trip that impacts schedules, needing a babysitter, behavioral changes in your kid). They can help you plan and enact changes.
No two people always agree on everything, but you two have come to terms on fundamental issues. You used a divorce family app, online template, or mediator during your divorce to write essential matters into your co-parenting plan. Issues like custody arrangements, sharing child-related expenses, health, school, and discipline were carefully considered and spelled out to the best of your ability. Everything else is negotiable.
You trust each other to always have your child’s best interests in mind. Neither of you uses your children to control the other. You don’t feel threatened by your child’s love for their other parent or any significant others your ex-spouse brings into the picture. You want your child to have as many loving adults in their life as possible. No parent is purposefully overspending or dating others in an attempt to make the other parent jealous.
Sometimes, children use their parents’ poor relationship to their advantage. They try to play you off one another to get what they want– “I wish I lived with Daddy because he’s way nicer than you!” Your children can’t manipulate you when you and your co-parent put up a united front and communicate amicably and regularly.
You’re in a healthy place when you and your co-parent can attend functions together. Think of your child’s joy at having both of you attend their birthday parties, school functions, sporting events, and recitals. Both of you can make it to the parent-teacher conference if you want.
In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, this is right at the top. Give yourself a big pat on the back. You and your co-parent’s romantic relationship and fallout are in the past– compartmentalized. You two have a higher calling now. You are raising healthy, happy, beautiful children. You value your time with your child and respect your co-parent’s time with them, too.
Remember to stop and recognize the important milestones you and your co-parent reach on your parenting journey. Achievement motivates you to keep going.
Though your journey together jumped to a different pathway after divorce, the path is as full of beautiful moments worth celebrating as any other. Use these milestones for gratitude and encouragement. You’ll soon find yourself in a place where communicating and making decisions with your co-parent becomes second nature.