Your kids don’t want to pick between you and your previous partner. They love both of you and want to keep both of you in their lives. This is why co-parenting is so crucial for couples who have broken up. Even if you are no longer together, you are both essential to your children’s lives. So, you need to work as a united front when it comes to parenting.
We know this can be difficult, especially if you did not have a very peaceful breakup. But, children typically benefit from more consistent parenting styles, and they can better model their future relationships when parents work together.
Tips on How to Co-Parent with Your Past Partner
So, how can you ensure that you and your co-parent are doing everything you can to make this change as easy for your children as possible? Here are some tips on how to co-parent your children healthily and effectively.
Establish Ground Rules for Good Communication
Good communication is the keystone of any working relationship. Even though your relationship with your past partner may be different now, it is still crucial that you show each other the respect and consideration that you would have when in your earlier relationship. This can be challenging — especially if one of you feels that they were wronged in the relationship — but setting ground rules can help to facilitate the right space for you to talk about the things you need to.
Maybe you agree to only discuss certain topics around your children. Maybe you agree that only one person can speak at a time. There are a number of ground rules that you can come up with; the key is to find out what works for you and your co-parent.
Respect the Roles that Each of You Plays for Your Children
Both you and your co-parent are role models for your children. You have a responsibility as a parent to set the best example you can for your children so that they learn how to handle challenging situations in their lives and how to treat people. It is important to remember that both you and your co-parent have this role and to show your children how to communicate effectively, you will have to respect your co-parent.
Aim for Consistency and Structure
Kids need structure and consistency to perform well in their everyday lives. This is because, as a child, the world is constantly changing around you, and the only thing that is the same. But, when parents break up or divorce, suddenly, life at home is different too. So, staying in contact with your co-parent and exercising similar rules and expectations can help provide your children with the consistency that they need to cope with the changes they are seeing around them.
Avoid Speaking Negatively About Your Former Partner
Going through a breakup or divorce can be incredibly stressful and emotional. But, it is never a good idea to speak negatively about your previous partner to your children (or really anyone). This can lead to resentment and make you less likely to work with them when it comes to parenting your children. Your responsibility is to your children, but you need to recognize that they love both you and your co-parent. Saying negative things about your co-parent can hurt them and cause them to begin taking sides or distancing themselves from one or both of you.
Listen, Compromise, and Check-in Regularly
Your romantic relationship with your past partner may be over, but your shared role as your children’s parents is not. And, as we all well know by this point, effective communication is key to any type of healthy relationship. This means that you will have to listen to your co-parent’s needs and wants and find ways to compromise to meet both of your needs.
In reality, these needs will change over time as your lives and your children’s lives change, so you will want to check in with your previous partner regularly to ensure that everyone is happy with the arrangement. This is also an excellent time to check in and see how your kids are doing and notify your co-parent of any changes you are thinking about making in your life.
Divorce and breakups can be hard on children. When we are young, we believe that our parents are the best role models, and we feel that they can do anything as a team. When that team breaks apart, it can be hard for kids to adapt. So, to help ensure that your children are not getting too lost or confused, it is crucial that you work together with your co-parent as much as you can. This way, your children will see that even though you are not in the same relationship you were in before, you are both still actively involved in their and each other’s lives.
Never Use Your Children as Messengers or Spies
Your children are going to feel lost or confused during the breakup and likely after as well. But there is nothing more harmful in these situations than to make your kids pick one side or the other. Your children are not there to pick sides, tell you that you were right or wrong, or anything like that.
Both you and your partner have a duty to your children to be open and honest with them but not make them feel like they should be siding with either one of you. They do not need to know the details of the divorce or breakup; all they need to know is that you both love them and that you are working together to ensure that you are both a part of their life.
Use a Shared Calendar
It can be challenging to track who is picking the kids up from school on which days and which events one parent is bringing your children to when you and your co-parent are not living in the same house. But, one extreme benefit of technological advances is that you and your partner can use a shared online calendar where you can mark all of these details.
This helps keep both you and your co-parent on the same page and helps to prevent any schedule-related misunderstandings.
Talk to a Therapist
Sometimes, figuring out how to co-parent effectively is just too much to do on your own. In this case, you may want to consider reaching out to a therapist who can help you build the structure you need to care for your children together. While many people go to couples therapy when they are looking to develop communication skills within their relationship, it can also be an excellent tool for co-parents needing to establish an effective way to work together to raise their children.
So, if you are having trouble working with your co-parent and you think having a safe and non-judgemental space can help you create the ground rules you need to make this work, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at Love Heal Grow. Our therapists can help you find the tools and strategies you need to reach an agreement with your co-parent and be there for your children.