Little Kimi wanted a picnic with her friends and family for her 10th birthday party. The party was as she wanted and was attended by both her parents. It was also attended by her mother’s fiancé and her father’s wife. It was the usual jovial occasion with cake, games and fun. Everyone went home happy.
It is not unusual to find positive stories of co-parenting in the news. From celebrities gushing about the role of their former partners in raising their kids to stories about a child’s holiday trip with his co-parents (and their partners) in tow and more. But what exactly is co-parenting?
What is Co-Parenting?
Co-parenting is a situation where parents are not a couple anymore but decide to raise their kids with equal responsibility. It gives both parents equivalent opportunities to be a part of their kids’ lives. But it may not be easy for former couples to co-parent especially if the split was bitter. Therefore, it is very important to know how to make co-parenting work well.
Here are some dos and don’ts of co-parenting successfully.
- Respect your partner’s role as a parent. It is a given that if you agreed to co-parent with your former partner, you think he or she is capable of doing so and is not a threat to your child’s life (as opposed to a partner who is abusive, or involved in illegal activities).
- Set rules. When you are co-parenting, it is important to set rules to avoid any conflicts. Agree on consistent rules for everyday routines such as bedtime, curfew, homework etc. Your rules may also be about the role of your co-parent’s new spouse or partner in your child’s life, schedules, outings, communication methods and general parenting guidelines. But allow your co-parent leeway for simple things such as meal menus. For instance, your kids don’t have to eat the same food for dinner at your co-parent’s house as they do with you; unless of course it is a medical necessity. Remember the important stuff and let go of small things.
- Communicate well. It can be very challenging to communicate with a former partner if you two did not part on good terms. But effective communication is a necessary component of co-parenting well. Informing your partner about any kinks in your schedule or an issue concerning your child is paramount. Co-parenting also means to talk with your former partner about all matters related to your child especially important matters. You need to communicate with your co-parent whether you like it or not.
- Don’t mix your divorce issues into your co-parenting partnership. If you are angry with your former partner, refrain from showing it in front of your kids. Successful co-parenting calls for many adjustments on the part of the parents. Together or separated, it is important for kids to see their parents respect each other.
- Don’t allow your kids to become pawns in your co-parenting issues. Avoid using kids as messengers. Communicate directly with your co-parent. Don’t ask your kids about your co-parent’s new partner. Don’t badmouth your former partner in front of kids. Also, make sure your kids don’t take advantage of your issues with their other parent.
- Don’t treat co-parenting as a competition with your former partner. Remember, there is no prize at the end of the race; the only thing at stake is your child’s well-being.
Parenting is already challenging. And co-parenting can really amp up these challenges. The truth is, co-parenting can be as easy or as hard as parents want to make it. It is complicated but (in the end) it can be that simple.