As a parent, both you and your partner have certain responsibilities towards your child that you both share. It is a type of parenting practice that works best for your child, with both the parents sharing responsibilities and teaching values together. However, sometimes, situations may be different, and you may not be able to share the responsibility together with your partner.
There are various situations that could require you to become a co-parent. If you are interested in understanding more about the concept and want to learn how to best work it out, do read on.
What Is Co-Parenting?
Co-parenting is a type of parenting style or situation in which the parents are not married any more, but still share the responsibility of bringing up the child. In such a situation, the parents may not be in a marriage, may not be living together, or may not be in a romantic and typical couple-like relationship with each other. In the United States of America, the word co-parenting is mostly used to describe a situation in which parents who are divorced or separated decide to share the responsibility of caring for and bringing up their children together.
Co-parenting in the same house with your children along with your ex is something that can be the best possible approach towards parenting, at least from the point of view of your children. However, it is easier said than done, and can often run into a lot of trouble too. Co-parenting will surely give your children a sense of security and unchanging love. On the other hand, it can also make you and your partner more stressed out, or may end up in negative feelings towards each other, leading to bitterness and more cause for disagreement.
If you and your partner can look beyond the initial hiccup of parenting your children together, despite whatever differences you share, the relationship can be mutually beneficial and can result in the happiness and overall development of your children.
[ Read: Side Effects Of Divorce On Children ]
What Is The Principle Of Co-Parenting?
Here are a few ideas that are suggested as per the principle of co-parenting:
- As per the principle of co-parenting, a child will always have the right to maintain the same type of and a stable relationship with both the parents, even after the parents go for a separation or a divorce. The same will be applied in all cases, unless one of the parents is deemed to be unfit for the safety and welfare of the child. In such cases, a governing authority will decide which parent will have the main rights of a parent.
- The principle of co-parenting is based on the concept that when you become a parent, you take the responsibility as an adult to behave a certain way with your children towards their overall well-being. Your relationship with your partner is not what should govern how you are towards your children. It means that even if you go through a separation or a divorce, it should have no effect on the way you are with your children.
- The principle of co-parenting also believes strongly in giving the right of access to the children to both the parents, and not exclusively to only one parent. It believes that when both parents share the responsibility of bringing up the child, it will be more beneficial for the child’s overall development and well-being.
[ Read: Relationships With Kids After Divorce ]
Co-Parenting After You Go Through A Separation Or A Divorce: Why It Is Best For Your Children?
Co-parenting after divorce or a separation from your partner can often be a painful and negative experience, where you may not want to see the other person at all. However, when your kids are involved in the same, it can become a very tricky situation. You may not want to have anything to do with your ex, but for the sake of your children, you may often have to be together or be at events you would otherwise prefer not to be. Here are a few reasons that co-parenting, even if it seems tough for you and your partner, will be the best option for your children:
- It Will Give Them A Feeling Of Being Secure: Often children blame themselves for the problems that parents have. In case you and your partner are going through a separation or a divorce, your children may feel guilty and think it happened because of something they did. Once you decide to co-parent your children after you get separate or go through a divorce, they will feel that you are still a family, even though you may not be living together. It will do a lot of good for their overall self-esteem and will add to their sense of security and self-worth.
- Help To Form Consistency In Routine: When you decide to co-parent your children, it will help to form a similar set of co-parenting rules and instructions that they are supposed to follow and go by. As parents, if not as partners, you will be able to understand what is best for your child and the rules of discipline and family values will remain a shared and common interest for you both. Your children will know what they should expect from you both and what is expected of them in terms of behavior and discipline.
[ Read: Negative and Positive Parenting ]
- Will Help Them Grow Into Better Problem Solvers: When your children see you and your ex working together for the family even after you have moved on in life, they will learn how to handle situations in a mature and responsible way. It will help your children realize that sometimes, even if the conditions are not favorable or as per what they want, there is still the chance of working out things with regard to mutual consent and understanding.
- Will Help Them Grow Into Happier Adults: When you and your ex provide the love, care and attention to your children that they deserve from both parents, you will help to aid in their overall development. They will learn to grow as better human beings who are compassionate, kind, understanding and loving.
[ Read: Parenting Styles You Should Be Aware Of ]
How To Co-Parent After You Go Through A Separation Or A Divorce:
As parents who may not be together anymore, it is important that you learn to set aside your feelings and give the top most priority to your children’s feelings and well-being. Of course it is easier said than done, but sometimes, it may be the only option you have, if you want to ensure the overall well-being of your little ones. Co-parenting your children after you are going through a separation or divorce may be the most difficult phase of your life, but it will also be one of the most important element when it comes to your child’s psyche. Here are a few ways in which you will be able to co-parent your child better once you and your partner have decided to part ways:
- Keep Your Feelings And Your Behavior Separate: In order to be impartial towards your ex in front of your children, you will have to make sure that you keep your feelings aside and do not behave while still thinking the same way. You may hate to catch up with your ex as it brings back the unpleasant memories of the past. But while you are acting as a co-parent, you cannot show the same in your behavior towards your ex, especially in front of your children. You may feel a range of emotions, such as anger, distrust, hatred or even hurt when you see your ex, but make sure you curb them for the time you are around your children.
- Vent Out Your Feelings Where Your Children Cannot See: As a human being, you are bound to go through a range of emotions, especially when it comes to working together as a co-parent with your ex. The key for you is to make sure that you do give a proper outlet to your feelings, but not in front of your children. If you keep all your feelings bottled up, they are bound to explode and come out in a way that will be negative to the overall well-being of both you and your children. Instead of waiting till it is too late and there is no chance to avoid an ugly scene, use the anger and channelize it into something positive. If you want to get your thoughts and feelings out, try talking to a friend who you know will understand your situation, or speak to a therapist. Sometimes, keeping a journal can also help you get out your feelings and feel better.
- Stay Focused On Your Children And Remember Why You Are Co-Parenting: It is okay to feel that you may suddenly give vent to your emotions, but you can always try and keep that under control when you constantly think about your children’s presence and well-being. Stay focused on your children while you are around them and remember why you are co-parenting with your ex. Tell yourself that you want to make sure your children are loved and cared for, and that they get the love and attention of both the parents, as is their right.
- Understand That The Problem Is Yours And Not Your Child’s: Remind yourself that whatever happened between you and your ex and whatever resentment you have towards each other is an issue that is to be shared between you two only. Under no circumstances is it your children’s fault and they should not be made to suffer for it.
- Do Not Be Negative In Front Of Your Children: You may not agree with a lot of things your ex has done in the past, or may not agree completely even now. If you and your ex are not able to reach a common ground where you feel that you both agree to something, do not show the same in front of your children. It is hard to always keep a straight face and not react when you feel bad, but for the sake of your children, you will have to learn to do exactly that. Under no circumstances should you talk negative about your ex in front of your children. You may feel that your children should know why you and your ex had to move apart, and you may feel that you need to show them your side and show that you were right. Doing so will only turn the situation more and more negative. Remember that your ex is your child’s parent, and for your child, both you and your ex are equally important. When you try to show down your ex in front of your children, or when you try to tell them what a bad parent or partner your ex has been, it will only end up showing you as a bitter and complaining person, something your children will not want to relate to.
[ Read: Tips For Raising Your Kids Right ]
Easy To Follow Do’s And Don’ts For Co-Parenting With Your Ex:
Even though it can be a draining experience and a difficult one at that, here are a few do’s and don’ts that will help you for effective co-parenting with an ex:
- Sit down together with your ex and discuss what family values and principles you both want to impart to your children.
- Whatever differences you have with your ex, discuss it openly but make sure you do not do it in front of the children.
- Tell your partner why you think what they are suggesting may not be to the best interest of your children. Similarly, hear them out when they tell you why they do not agree to some of your parenting practices.
- Come to a mutual agreement that both of you will not malign the other in front of the children, no matter what you feel for each other and how difficult it may be to work together as co-parents. If the need be, tell your ex what irks you the most about them and what they should try and avoid in front of the children to make sure you do not lose your cool. Similarly, give them the same option to view their concerns and emotions.
- If your child does say negative things about your ex, stop the discussion right there, even if it makes you feel better. Tell your children that under no circumstances should they speak ill of their parents.
- Talk to your ex and discuss about important visitation rules and ways in which you each will spend time with the children. Some important issues that you will need to address and discuss here will be how you will be with the children during holidays, vacations, celebrations and such. You can also plan whether or not you both can agree to take the children to family vacations where both you and your ex will be present. You can also discuss about who will take the children to which class, which parent stays with the child on which weekend, who spends which part of the day or week with the child and such. Of course you should pay the utmost amount of care and respect to your children’s wishes in such matters as well.
- Chalk out a plan of action in regards to the various behavioral and family value related guidelines that you and your ex want your children to follow. You may not be living together as a family anymore, but you will still remain a family as long as you both share your children. Also, your children will grow up with the values that you teach them now and encourage them to follow. Make sure that you and your ex both share the family values that you want your children to imbibe and learn, and that no parent takes a bigger share in putting forth the same.
- Talk about how your children will meet and spend time with extended family members such as grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and such. You can talk about where the children will meet them, who can have access to the children at what point of time or occasion and so on.
- Keep the communication channel open with your ex when it concerns the matter of your child’s development and well-being.
- Children can be extremely smart and understand how they can manipulate parents to get what they want. It is especially true when your children know that you are not together anymore and they can use the situation to make you feel guilty, and in the process earn your time and other wants that they may have. Speak to your ex about fulfilling such wishes and so-called needs that your children may tell you about. You should both come to a mutual agreement about what is acceptable to you both when it comes to your child’s demand and where you both will draw the line no matter what.
- If you suspect your ex has done something to which you do not agree as a parent, make sure you speak directly with him or her instead of forming your own opinion. Your child may tell you something but verify it with your ex before you start blaming them or get upset and angry. Remember that your children may have a very different view of looking at things, and the way they express something to you may not always be the accurate interpretation.
[ Read: Effects Of Single Parenting ]
- Remember that your child is a child and not an adult, so whatever you speak in front of your child should be in a way that your child will understand based on the particular age.
- You may feel lonely, sad, angry, upset and a lot of other things towards your ex, but do not use that as an opportunity to share your moments with your child. Keep such feelings to yourself and speak about it with a friend or a therapist. Keep your child away from any such negative emotions that you may be going through. If you confide in your child about such feelings, it will only make them feel negative towards the other parent, and will harm the overall parent-child relationship, which can also backfire at you.
- Do not ask your child to bring back information about your ex, especially about things that concern their private lives. Never ask your children if your ex is meeting someone. In case your ex is already involved with someone in any sort of a relationship, do not ask your children to spy on them or bring back information.
- Never ever spread negative information about your ex to your children. Whatever happened was between you and your ex and it is for you two to deal with it. You should definitely leave your children out of it to make sure that they grow up into happy and healthy individuals who have the utmost love and respect for both the parents.
- Under no circumstances can ask your children to choose sides and decide as to which parent they want to be with or spend more time with. You may have many issues with your ex, but please remember that your children are not to blame for the same, and asking them to choose one parent over the other is one of the most negative things you can do to your children.
- Do not turn family events or gatherings into battle grounds where your only aim becomes to outdo or show down your ex. Do not do something for your children just because you want to prove to them that you are more happening or more fun than the other parent.
- While you may be lonely, do not expect your children to be your main or only source of emotional support. It is understandable that you may be in need of company, but do not expect or force your children to spend all their time with you and just for you. You should not make them feel guilty of going out with their friends and spending time doing things away from you, just because you will be alone at home.
Once you decide to go ahead and do the best for your children, both your partner and you will be able to come to a somewhat mutual understanding of how you can best co-parent your children. If you feel that your emotions towards each other is causing a rift in the same, try to go for family counseling and sort out your differences.
[ Read: Effects Uninvolved Parenting ]
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