Navigating new norms is hard, especially when our new normal is something we never imagined we’d have to go through.
When it comes to co-parenting not only are you adjusting to a new way of life but you’re having to help your children adjust too.
Discovering the ins and outs of co-parenting while experiencing the swell of emotions that come from splitting up can make you feel like you’re on an endless roller coaster.
Co-parenting isn’t easy and putting your children’s emotions first can be difficult when you’re still experiencing your own pain. So what are some things that can help you navigate this new phase of life in a healthy way?
Communicating as Co-Parents
1. Speak professionally
You don’t have to like someone in order to get along with them.
I’m sure plenty of you have had coworkers that weren’t easy to get along with, but you figured out how to navigate those situations with a professional attitude and behaving in co-parenting doesn’t have to be any different.
If the emotions rise when discussing plans/schedules/etc., learn how to take a step back and refocus together. The goal of communication is to make each other’s lives easier which in turn will make your children’s lives easier.
By changing your perspective of the relationship with the other co-parents you can start to separate your emotions from your behaviors. This can help you decide as co-parents that you won’t allow your relationship issues to get in the way of the kids’ relationships with you.
2. Put your pride aside
At this point in your life you should be able to recognize when the desire to have your children go to a tulip festival on the same day of your ex husband's birthday is due to your own pain rather than the prioritization of your children’s relationship with their dad.
You may feel hurt that your ex has chosen someone else and now that person is going to be in your children’s lives too, but that pain that you feel should not affect your child’s relationship with their parent or with their step parent.
The priority while navigating co-parenting is always going to be the children. Learn to reflect on the motivation behind your actions to see if it’s spite that’s causing you to want something or if it’s the desire for your children to feel loved and supported by all the adults in their lives.
3. Set expectations and boundaries
Are they wanting to take the children after school some days? What about showing up to baseball games, dance recitals, etc.? What about when Jimmy wants his mom to come see his science project he’s been working on, can she come over? Do you need to be made aware of this?
The more clear the expectations and boundaries are for each situation, the easier it will be for everyone to navigate these times.
Try breaking decisions down into different categories to see how each one expects them to be handled: education, schedules, holidays, medical, discipline, rewards, finances, etc. Figuring out what works for all of you while being willing to compromise will help make co-parenting run smoothly.
4. Remember: The children come first
This is your common ground.
No matter how indifferent you feel, putting all of the struggles you had in your past relationship aside, the commonality you will forever share is your children. And they should never have to decide between their parents.
Your role as their parents is what ties you together and it’s that which can motivate you to make this co-parenting thing work.
You may hear your children say remarks about their other parents, however oftentimes this comes from a place of pain and insecurity. The source in these types of statements typically comes when the child feels that they have to choose sides.
Rather than agreeing and falling into the trap of talking negatively about the other parent, try validating those feelings while shining light on the effort. f
“Mom is always late, it’s so annoying.”
“It can be annoying when people are late, but your mom is a busy woman and she cares about you deeply. So she’ll be here soon.”
No matter how annoyed you actually are, bring that up with the other parent when the children aren’t present (with effective communication tools), and prioritize your children’s relationship with their other parent(s) by keeping things positive and generalizing.
Studies have shown that there are many benefits to a child growing up in a healthy co-parenting environment. Things like emotional management, cognitive development, and improved social skills are all part of the growth that can happen when the parents prioritize the children.
What about you?
It can feel limiting as we continually talk about putting your children first, but I want you to know that your feelings are valid as well.
Co-parenting is hard, and the difficult emotions that you feel can’t be ignored. So here are some things to keep in mind for yourself:
Use your support system
Vent to other people, not your children
Stay flexible in your expectations
Find new hobbies for when your children are gone
Seek out counseling
Give yourself grace as you learn how to cope with all of these changes and give your loved ones (or ex loved ones) grace as well.
You will get through this transition, and your new normal will feel normal soon.