Cultivating Cooperation in Custody: Four Keys to a Successful Co-Parenting Relationship
Raising children is no easy task. As the saying goes, “it takes a village.” This is true for any household, but parents who are going through a separation or divorce can face a litany of additional challenges where feelings of anger or betrayal cloud their ability to work together in raising children. This can result in stress not only you, but for your children. It doesn’t have to be this way. By maintaining a positive relationship with your ex, you can reduce headaches and save money by avoiding court. Here are some key areas to focus:
The key to any successful endeavor is the ability of those working toward a common goal to communicate with one another. This is true in business, in life, and especially in parenthood. Everyone wants what is best for their children, including your ex. When parents are unable to unwilling to communicate about activities, projects, and playdates, it’s the children who miss out. Make a commitment to your children and to your ex to ensure that your differences will be worked through between the parents, ideally in such a way that the kids are none the wiser. Keep a shared calendar that you can each add to and consult with any scheduling questions. Go over and above to loop one another in and make sure lines of communication are clear at all times.
2) Do not Disparage
When a relationship ends there will always be feelings of hurt, regret, even anger. It’s natural to want to vent or blow off steam about your lousy ex. Like it or not though, kids grow up to be like their parents. They are 50% you and 50% your ex. When you disparage your ex to your children, you are making them think negatively about their parent, and by extension, about themselves. Instead, hold your ex out in the most positive light possible. Choose to highlight their strengths rather than their weaknesses so that the children can be influenced by the positive traits, rather than shortcomings. There will be times when you are frustrated. Don’t let your frustrations become your children’s.
3) Create a Parenting Plan
Separating from your partner will introduce new uncertainties and variables. As you navigate this transition, find comfort in controlling what you can control. Work with your ex to develop a weekly schedule that suits both parents’ obligations while maximizing the time your children get to spend with each parent. You can even work in household chores and routines that will give your kids a sense of routine and consistency as they go back and forth between homes. The more acrimonious the split, the more detailed this plan should be. Seek to enlist the help of a professional like a Coparent Counselor to bring both sides to an agreement.
4) Start with the end goal and work backwards
One piece of advice that we give to clients working through a custody dispute: one day your child is going to get married, and you and your ex will both be at the wedding. What’s that dynamic going to look like? Will there be palpable tension? Will you be causing undue anxiety for the bride and groom on their wedding day? What can you do right now to ensure that you and your ex can be cordial when that day comes? Everyone wants what best for their children’s long-term goals, however we don’t always act in a way that’s consistent with those goals in the moment. Remind yourself daily that the long term goal here is to raise your kids in a way that your separation will not cause them undue stress. This is as true for their wedding day as it is for their first day of Kindergarten. Keep the spotlight on your kids and always try and see things through their eyes. After all, it’s all about them.