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What is co-parenting?
Co-parenting is when two people agree to raise a child together when they are no longer in a relationship.
After a divorce, the situation can be strained between you and your ex-partner. It is important to remember that you don’t stop being a parent.
You both continue to have a responsibility to provide your children with a stable, secure, and safe environment in which they can flourish.
Why is cohesive co-parenting beneficial to children?
Research has found that desirable co-parenting practices aid the development of children’s sense of conscience and their ability to make moral decisions.
Positive co-parenting methods have also been connected to a higher likelihood of children developing an ‘easy-going’ temperament.
Whereas the presence of conflictual co-parenting processes is linked to higher levels of child misbehaviour.
Some studies have also found that negative co-parenting methods are likely to be repeated by the child later in life.
Co-parenting effectively is crucial for the well-being of children. With that in mind, here are our top tips to help you build a cohesive co-parenting relationship.
Cohesive co-parenting: top tips from First Line Family Law Cardiff
1. Effective communication
Don’t use your children as messengers. They should not be relaying information between you and your ex-partner.
If you struggle to talk directly to your ex-partner without it turning into an argument, use other communication methods such as text or email instead but be cautious of how your messages may be interpreted.
If your ex says something that you don’t agree with, take time to cool off before you reply.
One day your children may marry, graduate or even become parents, it is important that you can be in the same room at the same time as your ex-partner without conflict arising.
Try to keep interactions made in front of the children polite, courteous, and calm.
2. Be respectful
It’s difficult if tensions are still high between you and your ex-partner but it will be in everyone’s best interests if you treat each other with respect.
Think of any arrangements you have scheduled like a work meeting. You wouldn’t turn up late or cancel last minute!
Your divorce agreement will likely have covered many of the following areas, but it is worth making sure you are on the same page for them all.
- Weekly schedule (including who is picking up / dropping off)
- Child support payments
- Payment of child care and any other extracurricular activities (school trips, extra tutoring, etc)
- Holiday and summer schedules
- Keeping each parent informed about medical, education, and other important issues
- Restrictions on how far parents can live from one another
- Sharing decisions about religious education or spirituality
- Parenting styles and any disciplinary action for misbehaviour
Respecting your ex-partner’s choices and sticking to agreements will go a long way toward an effective co-parenting relationship.
3. Be flexible
Even though it is recommended that you have an agreed schedule, that you stick to as much as possible, sometimes things come up. It will make for a more amicable co-parenting relationship if you can be flexible and communicate any changes effectively.
This could be something as simple as switching days if necessary or welcoming your co-parent to a birthday party that you are hosting.
4. Never badmouth your ex
Don’t speak negatively about your co-parent, or allow family members or friends to criticise them, in front of the children.
Any information that may distance a child from the other parent or cause the child to feel anger at the other parent is not acceptable.
This includes details of the divorce which may be upsetting for children to hear, details of new partners, or any intimate details of why the relationship ended.
5. Deal with anger effectively
It’s okay to be angry, but your feelings don’t have to dictate your behaviour.
Never vent to your child about your ex. Talk to a friend or a therapist if you have to get something off your chest. Exercise, journaling, or meditating can also provide a healthy outlet for letting off steam.
Keep your focus on your children, if you feel angry or resentful, try to remember why you need to act calmly – your child’s best interests are at stake.
6. Respect your children’s feelings
Children will sometimes refuse to leave one parent to stay with the other. This can be upsetting for the parent who is being ‘rejected’ and requires both parents to come together.
Why is the child rejecting one parent?
The problem may be simple to fix, like being more attentive to the child, having more toys or things to entertain them, or even changing your routine.
Alternatively, it may be a bit more complex, such as a conflict or misunderstanding.
Talk to your child about their refusal and attempt to get to the bottom of it.
A heart-to-heart with your ex-partner about the refusal may be emotional but can help you figure out what the trouble is.
Try to be understanding towards your ex, this may be a somewhat touchy subject.
Finally, accept your child’s feelings.
Whether you have identified the reason or not, try to give your child the space that they need.
It may have nothing to do with you at all, this is, after all, a challenging time for them too.
Remember most refusals are temporary. Try not to be too disheartened.
7. Keep a consistent schedule
Children thrive on consistency, co-parents have to work especially hard to keep schedules reliable.
Deciding on a common online calendar that syncs with your personal calendar can avoid a lot of conflicts. The calendar could include any holidays, birthday parties, or after-school clubs.
Make the children a priority. If one parent is due to have the children on Friday evening but the children have rugby practice then it is best to put the children’s schedule first.
If there are inevitable conflicts, try to address them as soon as possible so that everyone can be informed and prepared.
The more both parents keep up with the pre-determined schedule, the less upheaval and stress the children will experience.
8. Document and date your issues in writing.
If you have an ex-partner who is challenging then make sure you document everything and let the court know your ex is not cooperating.
You can get the court’s help in enforcing and following court orders for your child’s benefit.
You should keep any written conversations between you (text, email, etc) as proof of disagreeable behaviour.
9. Make drop-offs quick and positive
If children (particularly young children) sense tension this can negatively impact their transition from one home to another.
Try and keep things upbeat and positive at drop-off, even if you really don’t like your ex, try to put these feelings aside and be there for your child.
10. Be smart about new partners
You and your ex-partner should agree on the roles any new partners may have with your children.
Our experts at First Line Family Law Cardiff recommend that new partners wait until they have a secure place in the family structure before they are involved in any child-rearing decisions.
As time passes, you and your co-parent will want to decide how the new partners can best contribute to the choices made that affect the children, always keeping your children’s best interests as the priority.