When a child is raised by parents in separate households, it can be stressful on several different levels. From each parent’s own perception of “what’s right,” and “how to do things,” if co-parenting isn’t prioritized, it can lead a child to be confused, act out, and develop resentment or jealousy towards the other parent. Rather co-parenting in which there is a share decision-making process to address the child’s physical, emotional, social, and cognitive needs is important. For example, co-parenting can include making decisions related to rules, discipline, and schedules (e.g., the amount of screen time time a child can have, or spend socializing with their peers).
Co-parenting is difficult. Setting aside emotions and feelings, while prioritizing your child’s well-being takes time and effort. And if one parent is not on board, the task becomes that more challenging. When co-parenting, follow the four “C’s:” create, collaborate, (be) consistent, and compromise. First, create a plan that works for both parents. While the two of you may have differences, focus on the common ground. Next, collaborate to ensure that the plan is reasonable and able to be carried out. Then, promote consistency with the plan and with each other. Afterwards, remember that compromise is the key to a healthy relationship. Once a plan is created and implemented, it will need to be revisited and adjusted over time. Finally, as developmentally appropriate, try to get the child’s input as to how the plan is working, or to identify any changes that might be indicated.
Here are some additional tips:
1. Create a shared calendar to help track school functions, extra-curriculars, medical appointments. Keeping an up-to-date schedule helps promote open communication and fosters good will.
2. Develop a co-parenting plan (with guidelines and expectations). Identify what you want from each other, and some general guidelines that you both agree on (e.g., discipline).
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Don’t withhold, or have your child be the “messenger” to their other parent
4. Treat each other with dignity, civility, and respect. Put aside your feelings, and remember that your child unites the two of you.
5. Engage in active listening, by hearing the other person speak without interrupting, then affirm what they say, repeat back or paraphrase what you heard, and ask for any points of clarification.
6. Provide regular check-ins with each other to understand what’s happening day-to-day and week-to-week. A lot can happen, and it’s always helpful to have a keen awareness of what’s new and different.