I consider myself one of the lucky few that has (at most times) a pretty good relationship with my “co-parent.” Yes, he is my ex-husband and we are working our way through what will be a long road of “co-parenting” together.
When we got married and started having children this is not the path that either of us thought we’d be on. But things happen and here we are. We are 3 years into our co-parenting journey and while it’s not always easy, I feel that we do a great job raising our kids “together.” If you are newly separated and starting your co-parenting journey, I hope these things that I have learned will provide some comfort to you on your journey.
- Be kind and understanding. Kindness, compassion and understanding are all qualities we want to instill in our children, and even when we think they aren’t watching, they are. This goes for how you treat your ex. Doing things to make life easier for everyone can sometimes mean making a small sacrifice for yourself. If you can find the peace in your heart to make the sacrifice, I say do it.
- Be open-minded. Some parenting plans require that they are stuck to hard and fast. But have the understanding that schedules and arrangements may have to be changed. Keep to the schedule you have in place but be mindful of how you want to be treated as well! I have a full-time job with an amazing boss that allows me to be there for my kids every day after-school but I also have the responsibility of being one of the owners of EVMB and that requires quite a bit of time! I’m lucky to have the job flexibility that I do and my ex-husband recognizes that this benefits him as well as our kids.
- You’re in this together. Yes, there are now two households and things get tricky with kids and behavior issues can arise when the same expectations are not upheld at each home. We invented the term “carry-over punishment” with our kids. If they get in trouble at one house and lost a privilege such as screen time for a certain number of days. The days they go to the other parents’ house, the same privilege is taken away. Consistency is key!
- Do your own work. To say I miss my kids when they are with their dad is a severe understatement. My house feels empty and lonely. I wish (sometimes) they were there yelling at each other and making a huge mess. Forcing myself to sit with the silence is HARD but I’ve realized during these times that spending the time alone allows me to be the person I need to be. I use these times to do things for me-try a new class, meet with friends I haven’t seen in awhile, or sit and do nothing! Recharging my batteries is essential for my own growth and benefits my kids.
- Talk about it. There will be times where you may not be able to stand the sight of your ex. They are your ex for a reason (or many). But the ability to sit and act like mature adults will serve you both well (as well as your kids). If there is an issue that we are having with a child in school, an upcoming holiday (yes we do holidays together) then the best way to hash it out is in-person. Not via text, not over the phone or email.
I know that this style of co-parenting won’t work for everyone, especially those in a contentious divorce! If your ex-spouse is difficult to co-parent with, try doing things to make YOUR situation easier so when your kids are with you, they have a happy & healthy home to enjoy!