When you think about the term “co-parenting,” it assumes you’ll be cooperating and coordinating with your children’s other parent. That may be the ideal but, in reality, it can be a lot harder than just agreeing to stick to a schedule. Each parent has their own parenting philosophy, and they can be quite different.
Especially if your divorce was emotionally difficult, you may be wary of each other. What communication skills you had before the divorce may seem to be tapped out at this point. You may not be very fond of each other. You may be struggling with residual emotions and lingering frustrations from the divorce.
How can two very different people cooperate on raising their kids? Only with a substantial amount of effort. You may not find yourselves “co-parenting” so much as “tag-team parenting.” Is that enough?
It can be, if you’re careful, generous and willing to let go.
One of the most important ways to make your co-parenting efforts successful is to carefully spell out the expectations in your parenting agreement or order. The devil is often in the details of these agreements, and you will want to be specific. How will holidays be split? Are there any common rules that should be spread between the two households? When does one parent need to consult the other over a decision? When is it OK to just notify the other parent? Working with an experienced divorce attorney can help.
Apply your values
Think about how you would like your kids to feel. Safe? Stable? Loved? Chances are, your ex has similar opinions. One of the most important things you can do for your kids is to keep them out of any conflict you have with your ex, and that can be hard to do.
Allow the other parent to parent. Don’t undermine their authority. Don’t challenge every decision they make. Model good problem-solving skills for your children. Keep in mind that the way you treat your ex is probably the way your child will treat their future spouse.
Trust your ex to do what’s right even if they don’t do exactly what you would have done. If you believe you can’t trust your ex to do what’s right, explore options with your divorce attorney. Otherwise, do your best to roll with the changes whenever something happens that you wouldn’t have chosen.
Your children’s well-being is best served by having a stable, loving relationship with both parents. It’s best if your kids can see you and your ex working together in their best interest, but you can also serve your kids’ best interest by cooperating and keeping the kids out of any conflict.