When divorce or separation happens and both parents plan to be actively involved with raising their kids, you have no choice but to negotiate with your ex-spouse. The conflicts and disagreements that may have arisen during the separation process can make the co-parenting negotiation process even more difficult for all parties involved.
But remember, it is your kids that will be psychologically, emotionally and socially impacted by this new arrangement. So be as loving, supportive, nurturing and attentive to your kids during this process while being kind to your ex-spouse as your work out the new normal.
Here are some tips to help guide you during the process of co-parent planning:
#1) Resolve Emotional Issues
During and after the separation process, a lot of the negative emotions like anger, resentment, guilt, blame and bitterness will come to the surface. It could influence the decisions you make regarding your co-parenting program and could even cause you to misjudge the situation.
It’s best to ensure that you are in the right frame of mind when you are establishing the rules, boundaries and process for co-parenting your children. If you still have unresolved emotional issues with your ex-spouse, seek advice from experts to help you cope with the issues.
Getting an agreement with your ex-spouse before legal documents are inked, will keep legal fees to a minimum.
#2) Maintain a Communication Channel
You will likely have different ideas on how to raise your kids. In fact, these differences could be the reason why your separated. During this process, you can wish to have an amicable solution that will provide the right environment for the kids but don’t expect to be best friends.
It’s okay to have differences and disagreements on how you will raise your kids but the most important thing is that there is communication and intent for resolution when there is conflict, confusion or misunderstandings. Keep your communication focused on having your children’s best interest.
When you are feeling emotionally distraught, establish what method of communication you will use to share your thoughts and feelings. Sometimes, face-to-face or phone calls are not the best if you know you can potentially say hurtful things. If you prefer verbal versus written communication, write down your thoughts before your meeting or call.
Email is good for people who like to write, First of all, it documents details you want to communicate and secondly, it gives you a chance to review it before sending.
#3) Create Agreeable Key Terms
Before mapping out the rules and guidelines you both want to establish, you might want to discuss some key terms that could be a sticking point for both of you.
Getting an agreement with your ex-spouse before legal documents are inked, will keep legal fees to a minimum. Some key terms you might want to discuss up front include matters concerning:
- Financial cost sharing
- what will you agree to pay for?
- how will you divide the costs?
- Visiting and Parenting Schedules
- Who gets the kids
- How long does each parent get the kids for
- Are they going to go to a public school?
- If they go to a private school, who will fund it?
- How will you share in the extracurricular costs?
- what activities will you put the kids in
- how will they get to their activities
- Special Events and Occasions
- How will you arrange time with kids for special occasions like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Birthdays, etc.
- Who will be invited to these events?
These basic terms that you agree to will allow you to at least establish a good foundation for the transition. You can continue to expand on the details of each of the areas as situations come up.
#4) Set Common Household Rules
Having common ground rules at both homes will create the stability and consistency that kids need to feel to be emotionally secure.
By having certain rules in place at both homes, there will be less likelihood for kids to challenge them and pit one parent against another to get the other to agree to a rule that is more favorable for them (ie. bedtime hours).
Some areas to discuss with your ex-spouse for setting ground rules include:
- Eating time
- Bed time
#5) No Bad Mouthing
It’s not easy to withhold your personal feelings and negative emotion towards your ex especially if you did not have an amicable split. However, it’s not healthy to bad mouth your ex in front of the kids.
When one parent speaks negatively about the other, it actually looks bad for the parent making the comments. You don’t want to taint the kids’ views of their parent and of you.
Despite all that transpired between you and your ex, you still have kids together and need to ensure you are communicating especially when you have decided to co-parent.
#6) Give Yourself Me Time
While your kids are with your ex, spend time to do focus on yourself. Engage in your hobbies or whatever things make you happy. It’ll make you resist the urge to call your kids if you miss them while they’re away from you.
Spend time with your friends and family and socialize. Treat yourself to activities you like to do with friends to replenish and refresh.
Focusing on yourself during your break from the kids will create a good balance for you.
#7) Put Kids’ Happiness and Interest as Your First Priority
There will be times when you and your ex will not agree in handling certain situations. Remember that when the kids are with the other spouse, you have to resist the urge to try and manage the situation and the kids.
Allow your spouse to raise the kids the way he / she sees fit. There are benefits from the kids having different parenting experiences. As long as the differences in parenting aren’t inconsistent and open to be challenged to a point where they will rebel.
Co-parenting is not a one-time program that you set up and it stops. You will continue to come across many situations not covered here that you will need to address.
The most important thing to remember is that you are not in competition against each other. Put your children’s happiness first. It’s a learning process for everyone. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to experts and family for advice. Perhaps some of your friends have successfully co-parented and have some ideas to offer.