If your relationship with your baby’s father or mother didn’t work out, it doesn’t mean that your joint custody and child support arrangement is doomed to fail. Countless separated couples have proven they can work well together to become a great co-parenting team.
The first step is to treat your relationship with your ex more like a business partnership, and your child’s well-being is your business goal. With that in mind, plus these tips to help you embrace shared parenting solutions, you and your co-parent can raise well-adjusted and loving children.
While co-parenting is rarely “easy,” newborns and infants do not have the social lives and busier schedules that older children have. Without budding friendships, school routines, after-school activities, or part-time jobs of their own, scheduling visitations with a co-parent is about as straightforward as it gets.
On the flip side, the constant care and attention needed during these formative years, together with rigid routines revolving around eating and sleeping, requires detailed arrangements when transferring a baby from one home to another. Then, there’s the countless accessories that go along with your little one’s eating, sleeping, and bathroom habits–diapers, wipes, formula, breastmilk, bottles, bottle cleaners, changes of clothes…
A calm demeanor and constant vigilance are a necessity during this time when your baby’s brain is soaking up everything like a sponge. Next to food and sleep, drama-free parenting and mindful moments are what your baby needs more than anything.
Hurt feelings stemming from a divorce or break-up can accidentally lead to parenting selfishly, increasing conflict and competition with your co-parent. To be the best parent you can be for your baby, you have to take steps to let go of past hurt.
Parenting from a place of neutrality, rather than guilt or blame, can help you avoid common co-parenting mistakes–guilt-driven gifting, lax boundaries/rules, bad-mouthing your ex in front of your child, or sabotaging your ex’s bond with your child.
To start healing, turn your focus inward briefly and work on yourself. Practice seeing yourself from your ex’s point of view and envision any role you might have played in your break-up. This exercise is not to increase your feelings of guilt but rather to build empathy towards your ex. In time, that empathy can replace bitterness and foster cooperation and generosity.
Writing apology and forgiveness letters to your ex and yourself could help you shake off shame and resentment. No one has to see these letters but you. Writing the words can be more powerful than thinking them alone.
Next, turn your inward focus back out to things you can externally control to heal emotional wounds. Center your focus on your child and make their well-being your mantra.
Bad-mouthing your ex in front of your baby creates hostility that your baby can pick up on now and can hurt them in the future as they become aware of what you are saying. Speaking harshly about someone they love and share similarities with could leave them doubting your love for them.
Finally, change the way you communicate with your co-parent. Communicate with each other at regular intervals but as infrequently as possible. For example, you and your ex might agree to exchange information regarding your child twice a week.
In addition, keep your communication centered on your children. Avoid bringing up past relationship griefs. Keep it strictly business and child-focused.
Stick to texting, or even better, a co-parenting app that can help you keep your tone of voice in check to prevent escalating exchanges.
Making requests from your co-parent instead of demands might be easier said than done, especially when discussing joint custody or child support payments. A child support app like Dcomply can help you stick to this rule by making expense sharing, tracking, and money requests easy and fuss-free.
Spending plenty of time with both sets of parents improves bonding and coping skills for both the parent and the child while reducing stress, depression, and anxiety for both as well. For the non-custodial parent (that is, the parent who spends less time with the child or does not have the child spending most nights at their house), time together improves their parenting skills and increases their likelihood of on-time child support payments.
Nursing moms may particularly dread the thought of a baby spending extended time away. While breastfeeding is special bonding time and healthy for mommy and baby, it should not be used to deny custody time to the father. Father-child bonding time is equally essential for a baby’s healthy development. We’ll talk more about how to schedule shared custody for nursing mothers below.
Even babies can internalize and emulate what they see and sense. To make parenting easier on your future self, keep hurtful words out of your mouth and away from their ears.
Maintain a cool business-like composure when speaking to or about our ex. Assume the best and give your child the gift of freedom to love your ex.
If you have given your ex the time and space to cooperate with you, but they seem bound and determined to hurt you emotionally, get professional help from a therapist or mediator. Group therapy with your co-parent would be great but isn’t required to learn different ways to deal with stressors.
Unquestionably, physical, verbal, and child abuse should be documented and reported to local authorities.
As your baby grows and their abilities and needs change, you and your co-parent will have to modify your co-parenting plan regularly. How you choose to share time with your children will vary with your situation, but here are a few ideas:
These are suggestions to get you and your co-parent started on possible solutions. The best arrangement is the one that you and your co-parent can agree on and stick to.
Focus your attention on your child’s well-being. Consciously turn their everyday activities into positive, nurturing interactions, like morning snuggle time, playful evening baths, and relaxing bedtime stories. Savor this special time with your baby and give your co-parent their special time, too, because your baby won’t be a baby forever.