Co-parenting can be stressful and full of drama if you allow it. It’s what drives some parents to drink and religiously watch shows like Snapped. *smile* I’ve been co-parenting my kids amicably and peacefully for a few years now and I have been asked several times how do I do it? The short answer is I always put my children first. The longer and more detailed answer is what we will discuss below.
What is a Co-parent anyways?
According to dictionary.com a co-parent is: a divorced or separated parent who shares equally with the other parent in the custody and care of a child.
Essentially it’s a classy way to describe your relationship with the ex you had children with. It’s definitely much better than calling them your baby mamma or baby daddy. Although the dictionary states that is it an equal sharing of the child care responsibilities many of us know that is not always the case. Nonetheless, we will use the definition in this post loosely to refer to the “other parent”.
The Often Ignored REAL Issue
So why is co-parenting difficult for so many people? Most of the time it’s because emotions are involved. You were in a relationship with someone, you had children, something happened and now you’re not a couple any more. Bitter co-parenting situations usually occur when there was infidelity or abuse involved and understandably so. What many people mistakenly do is take carry over the anger of being deceived or hurt into how they deal with their ex as a co-parent. Some individuals try to use the children as a weapon to hurt their ex. THIS, my friend, is where we separate the true adults from the impostors.
It is perfectly normal to be upset with how your ex treated you while you were in a relationship. However, you have a child to care for as a unit and you MUST get over it for the sake of the child. You will never forget what that person did to you but you must learn how to love your child more than you hate your ex.
Being able to let go frees you from so much drama and can lend to a better co-parenting relationship in the long run. You will have to deal with this person in one form or another until the youngest child is 18 and even beyond that. Make those years as pleasant as you can for everyone involved.
I always (reluctantly) remind myself and others, YOU chose them and YOU chose to have a child (or 2) with them. Be upset with your lack of judgement at the time, learn the lessons life presented you with, and appreciate the gifts you were given (your children). I look at my situation as something I created and one that, as an adult, I must make the best of. My children did not ask to be put in this situation, so I take it as my responsibility to make things as “normal”, respectful, and peaceful as possible. I understand the importance of having both parents present in a child’s life so I do what I can to help nurture their relationship with their father.
When your children can see you putting forth an effort to have a cordial relationship with their mom or dad, it teaches them how to deal with difficult situations in a mature fashion. If the child(ren) see you fighting, being spiteful, or speaking poorly of their other parent it can cause an internal conflict for them. They begin to feel as though they have to choose a side. Some children start to feel like everything is their fault. Other children will begin to mirror your poor behavior and eventually resent one or both parents.
Keep it Strictly Business
Limit the topics of conversation between co-parents to the children only! Do not start walking down memory lane and talk to him/her about the good old days. Do not fall into the trap of getting into their personal lives. Simply communicate with them about the children.
When either parent gets into a serious relationship you should discuss this only as it relates to the children. Meet the new mate and discuss boundaries and expectations. Your opinion of this new mate should be limited to how you see them treat or interact with your child because quite frankly, you’ll never think the next person is as good as you were! hahaha
The lines of communication must stay open. Do not use your children as messengers! You should work to keep the kids out of your relationship issues with your ex. If you can’t stand the sound of the co-parent’s voice try communicating via text or email. Just make sure you don’t read attitudes into their messages that are not there.
If you feel that the other parent is slacking in certain areas relating to the child it is your job to communicate this to them. But again, keep the conversation strictly about the children. Do not say something like “you used to do this to me all the time! I see you haven’t changed and now you’re doing it to OUR child!” The other person will stop listening to you and will not see how their behavior is impacting the child. All they will see is a bitter ex.
Keep Your Opinions to Yourself
NEVER, EVER, EVER speak poorly of the other parent in front of the children. Learn to allow your children to come up with their own conclusions about their other parent. You do not have the right to instill your own frustrations, baggage, or issues onto the child. It’s not fair to the child or the other parent. Your ex may not have been a good husband or wife but that has little bearing on how they are as a parent.
Children are smarter than we tend to give them credit for. If their other parent is truly an asshole or a flake they will see it and come to this conclusion in time.
As much as you may want to protect your child the last thing you want is for your child to resent you for getting in the way of their relationship with the other parent or for negatively influencing their opinion of them. Allow your child to learn the lesson they are meant to learn.
There are some co-parents out there who are just pitiful. They never show up, they don’t treat the children well, they lie and are disrespectful, or they don’t support you financially or physically with the children’s needs. These are special cases and I’m not sure if much can be done to significantly improve these situations.
You must keep in mind that pitiful person is who YOU CHOSE to be the child’s parent. Stay calm and don’t take their neglectful behavior personally. It is highly likely they have much larger problems that have little to do with you and the child. Allow lines of communication between them and the child to remain open but monitor closely.
Do your best to keep your opinions to yourself and be there to consistently remind your child how loved they are, how special they are, and how grateful you are that you had them.
Yes, it will be difficult to keep calm when your child asks why the other parent behaves a certain way towards them. It will hurt when your child begins to feel unworthy or forgotten by the other parent. Getting angry, being vengeful, or speaking poorly of the co-parent will not help the situation.
There is always a lesson for all parties to learn in that difficulty. The best thing you can do is shower your child with love, build a tribe to help instill love into the child, and be the consistency they need.
No one ever said parenting was easy. Whether you do it with a spouse, a co-parent or alone there will be wonderful times and there will be not so wonderful times. Learn to appreciate the bad times as they make the good times so much sweeter!
Love your children and be thankful for them. They are walking, talking, breathing lessons that come into our lives to teach us about ourselves and our ability to work with others for the greater good.
Co-parenting relationships can be as difficult as you allow them to be. I’m far from perfect but I have found a way to co-parent that works for me and my children. Let’s start a conversation! Share with me your challenges and how you are working to make your co-parenting relationship work.