Co-Parenting Tips For a Forward-Looking Relationship
Nobody wants to be stuck in court forever. After a divorce or custody case is finished, the case should be done, right? Fortunately, a good majority of divorced or separated parents are able to look forward past the divorce or custody battle and become effective co-parents together. Sadly, those who do not figure it out often get stuck in a cycle of new court battles and endless attorney fees.
It is far better to spend your money taking the kiddos to some fun place, like Disneyland or camping or whatever your kids love to do than to constantly pay for attorneys to fight for you in court. So, how do people do it? How do separating parents move forward to get past court and back on track to living their lives and spending money on fun activities with their kids rather than lawyers?
- Be the Better Parent. Be the parent you want your child to grow up to be. After all, every child is half one parent and half the other. Your child will pick up habits, communication skills, and conflict management strategies from each parent. In order to give your child the best chance of becoming a great adult, you need to be the best parent you can possibly be. Do not try to control or manage the other parent, because you can’t and you shouldn’t. If they are not being the person or parent they should be, do not try to make them better. Rather, focus on yourself. You want to be the kind of parent your child will look up to and grow up to become, even if (and especially if) your “other half”’ is not stepping up to the plate.
- Improve Communication. Find ways to communicate with the other parent, even if they do not reciprocate. Let them know what is happening with your (and their) child. Send courtesy updates and reminders. Be polite. Do not accuse. At a bare minimum, talk or write to them at least as politely as you would to the child’s doctor or teacher. If communication is an ongoing difficulty, consider using a co-parenting app like Our Family Wizard or Talking Parents. Stay focused on improving your own communication, keeping it professional, and keeping them informed. If nothing else, you want your child to adopt good and healthy communication habits – so show them how it is done.
- Disentangle. Separate yourself physically, financially, and emotionally from the other parent. Be your own person and allow your ex to also be their own person. Stay away from them except as needed for co-parenting business (like parent-time exchanges or your child’s school/sports events). Do not ask them for money (except for what is ordered by the court) and do not obsess about how they spend their money. Unless they are engaging in dangerous activities or hanging out with violent criminals, you probably have no need to worry about who they hang out with or how they want to spend their time.
- More Love, Not Less. This one can be hard for some parents, especially for those who have a very strong bond with their child: allow your child to receive and experience more love not less. It needs to be OK for your child to spend time with your ex, their family members, and their friends. Do not try to limit the other parent as to who they can or cannot bring the child around. Give your child permission to love, to be loved by, and to spend time with the child’s other half. Do not criticize, berate, or harp on the other parent to the child – because that only hurts the child’s perception of themself. Be loving. Express love. Let the child love the other parent. There are obvious exceptions when we must protect the child from dangerous circumstances, but in general, more love is better.
- Keep Moving Forward. Problems and conflicts will inevitably come up. When they do, look for solutions. Be flexible. Be the better person when you need to be. Do not rehash everything that led up to the breakup. Let that go. Think about your future: your children will grow up and may get married and have children of their own someday. You want to be invited to those special family events, spend time with your grandchildren, and have a great relationship with your child when they are grown. Keep moving forward to that amazing future.
After the gavel goes down and a custody decree is entered, parents will need to co-parent. Learning to get along, even after a bitter court case, is important to helping your child find stability and happiness. No matter how bitter or friendly the court case, setting aside the past and co-parenting for the future will help meet your child’s physical, emotional and developmental needs. It pays to work together with your co-parent for your child’s future.