It would be somewhat unrealistic to expect that things between you and your ex will be amicable 100% of the time. Having said that, establishing a successful co-parenting relationship is something that you should both be willing to work together for, putting all of these battles aside for the sake of your child.
Co-parenting, even after all of the legal elements have been sorted out, is not without its challenges, that’s for sure (don’t think I’m envisioning some blissful co-parenting utopia here). But, it is certainly possible to come to an arrangement that suits you both, particularly when the love that you both have for your child is the driving force behind it. The arrangement will involve things like making sure that the decisions concerning your child are shared ones, establishing clear communication with (and respect for) each other and providing consistent rules for parenting.
Building the foundations for a successful and healthy co-parenting relationship will, of course, bring huge benefits for your child and ease the already dramatic impact that the divorce has on their life. By making this work for you, it will mean that you can provide your child with a close relationship with both of their parents, as well as helping to better their emotional well-being, and filling their life with stability, reassurance and love.
This blog contains a series of some key tips that will hopefully help you both establish a successful co-parenting relationship (minus the resentments from the split) with the best interests of your child at heart.
First things first, you need to try and address the bitterness, anger and resentment that (naturally) will have built up after the separation.
To tackle these issues and work towards moving on from them, find a way to outlet your emotions at appropriate moments. That way you can set them aside in these moments of co-parenting, in order to prioritise those of your child. Vent your own emotions with a counsellor, therapist, close friend or relative, and never in front of your child. Then, you can move on to re-establishing your relationship with each other as a co-parenting one.
Undoubtedly, this is going to be a big challenge, but the best thing to do is separate your own emotions from your behaviour as a co-parent in these scenarios, and focus on working cooperatively.
Expanding on the point above, for many individuals this is a great way to help them move on from their feelings associated with the separation, to build a stronger co-parenting relationship.
Make the distinction between your previous relationship and your completely new status as co-parents clear in your mind. You could even do this by handling the matters between you both (concerning your child) in business-like discussions or by pretending that you’re having the same conversation with a colleague – i.e. calm, clear, to the point and without bringing up previous battles.
It’s only natural that you will find that there is the odd occasion where you are really struggling to stick to your good intentions and stay calm – particularly in the more heated moments where they’re really winding you up! Do yourself a favour by spending a bit of time thinking about ways that you can improve how you respond to these moments.
Methods to help you deal with these conflicts and emotions include arbitration, collaborative practice and mediation measures that will significantly help you to keep these more challenging moments civil and get past them quickly.
It is also very important, as we mentioned above, that you find better ways to cope with your anger. This may involve discussions with a counsellor or therapist to help you get to the root of your anger. We all say things that we regret in the heat of the moment, but make sure that you’re aware of this and take time to pause (even go on a brief walk if you feel that it would help) before you react to an irritating text message.
You and your ex will, over time, navigate the do’s and don’ts of successful co-parenting for yourselves. But for now, these are a few key things that it is important to avoid, for the emotional well-being of your child:
This might sound obvious, but it is important to keep this at the forefront of your minds as you navigate co-parenting. By taking on this frame of mind, you will be better able to ensure that your child has healthy and happy relationships with both parents, which will mean the world to them.
So try your best to get along with each other in front of your child, and create a support network where they continue to feel like a key part of both of your lives. This involves making sure that they feel secure (confident in the knowledge that you both love them), keeping their lives constant, routine and predictable, and helping them see that their parents have a co-parenting relationship that is mature and respectful.
The main point that I want to end on in this blog is the importance of establishing solid communication with your child’s co-parent.
Make sure that you both feel that you can speak to each other about any issue, questions or topics that concern your child in a mature non-toxic way. Listen to each other, and work together to reach decisions.
Try to trust each other’s judgement and opinions about the welfare of your child, and speak to each other in an open, sincere discussion about these decisions. Try your very best to be flexible, especially when it comes to arranging meet-ups.
By committing to these regular forms of communication, you are building a solid foundation for strong co-parenting.
By establishing these methods of communication and co-parenting as a team, despite all of the challenges that you have faced, you will be able to achieve consistency in your parenting methods, which will help your child feel secure and stable during this difficult time. This will bring huge benefits to your child, in both their current happiness and the network of strong relationships that they will have for the rest of their life.
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