Parenting isn’t easy, and co-parenting can sometimes feel downright impossible. With so much change in such a short amount of time, it can be challenging to figure out how to navigate normal everyday issues, much less the difficult decisions.
Whereas two parents who were able to help each other out with the struggles of life are now going their separate ways, you must learn to manage the task of parenting alone. Emotions may still be negatively charged from the divorce, and kids, who may have internalized their own negative emotions during the divorce, may now be acting out and defiant.
It’s no wonder parents in this situation can feel hopeless. A similar situation would fill anyone with anxiety or self-doubt about whether or not they could gracefully handle such a big task.
When you were together, there were probably at least a few times that your ex was able to help out with chores, bills, or child care. Now, it’s just you on your own during your agreed-upon custody days, carrying the load of everything on your shoulders. You may feel that you have to be a superhero or that the weight is stifling.
Co-parenting becomes all the more complicated if the divorce leaves one or both of you angry and bitter due to emotional pain. You or your ex may find it difficult to move past the pain to co-parent cooperatively and openly.
Learning to co-parent successfully requires you to embrace their new role and the responsibilities that come with it. Reach out to others in your same situation who can support you in this transition.
Money disagreements are often cited as the cause for divorces. Rarely do money problems get better after a divorce. Your budget may be cut in half or more. You may have to pay child support or communicate regularly with an uncooperative ex to coordinate co-payments of everything from doctors’ bills to child care.
Despite the setbacks that a divorce can cause, you still have what it takes to make it past this challenging stage of life and co-parent successfully and with grace. Here are some “Dos” to get you started on your road to being the best co-parent you can be.
Set Boundaries – Keep firm and clear boundaries with your child. You may feel the need to ease this transition by being the “fun” parent and letting them have just about anything they ask for, but please remember not to overcompensate in this way. Kids need structure to grow into well-rounded, good-intentioned, unentitled members of society, and your actions now will pay off in the future.
Remember it Takes Teamwork – You may no longer live in the same house, but you still need to be on the same page regarding important life decisions for your kids. And to achieve this one-mindedness, you’ll need to have respectful communication.
Stop Calling – Switch to messaging your co-parent instead of calling them. Text messages allow for more organized, thoughtful, and less emotionally-charged communication. It also documents communication.
Use Technology – Look to technology to help you. There are tools and apps to help you do everything from paying child support to syncing up calendar events. A co-parenting app can take the emotional charge out of communication, keep both parents accountable for payments, and help you avoid missing out on time with your child, all while maintaining documentation for your lawyer and the court system.
Take the High Road – Strive to keep a neutral-tone and professional attitude with your co-parent. Yelling never won anyone an argument; it only shut down the dissenting voice. Remember that you both have your kid’s best interests at heart. Understandably, your ex may still have hurt feelings from the divorce, but your ability to stay cool, calm, and collected will pay off.
Watch Your Words – Speak respectfully about your ex around your children. Divorce is hard enough on the children as it is. They don’t need to carry the weight of your disdain for their mom or dad, who they probably love unconditionally. To do so could hurt their bond with the other parent or even cause a rift between you and your child. Don’t encourage or accept disrespectful talk from your child about the other parent, either. Listen if they need to vent about something that happened while they were in the other parent’s custody, but don’t allow disrespectful name-calling.
Manage Your Expectations – Co-parenting is hard on both parents. If the divorce was an ugly one, and feelings are still hurt, expect that it may take time to let go of the hurt and pain. Give the other parent the grace and time needed to grieve and move on. Also, with the economic changes and challenges a divorce produces, understand that a parent may be doing what they need to make a living, and work schedules may take over for a while.
Find Support – Create a supportive community. Family, friends, and hired professionals can help take the workload off your back and be an excellent sounding board for ideas or advice. Just don’t constantly vent to the neighbors!
Keep Accurate Records – Disputes are likely to arise, and keeping detailed records of expenses paid using a shared parenting app like DComply, tracking visitation hours, and recording appointments your ex misses will support your case should you need to take your grievances to a third party mediator. Records allow mediators to direct a productive discussion of the facts to resolve disagreements.
Co-parenting is definitely challenging at first as all the life changes take some getting used to, and the big emotions start to settle. The steps above can help you keep your composure and remind you that you’re setting out to do what’s best for your kids.