Co-Parenting: Nightmare or Dream Come True?
The Reality of Co-Parenting
Parenting is hard. Co-parenting is like setting the bike on fire that you are riding on while having multiple people on either side of you screaming about the best way to put it out. It is messy. It is trial and error. Quite honestly, it can be a completely unmitigated disaster.
Let's get real here. You are two people who were previously together, who are now exes. Not only are you exes, but you have to see each other and deal with each other on a regular basis because there is a child involved. No big deal, right? Wrong.
Add in the step-parents/new spouses—who likes to have to deal with their spouse's ex? Nobody.
Now, don't get me wrong. There are plenty of co-parenting relationships that work out fabulously. All of the parents get along great, nobody has anything bad to say, and everyone can be adults about the situation for the benefit of the child involved. These cases, however, are not as frequent as the bad ones.
It is important to know if co-parenting is in your realm of possibilities because in some form it usually is. However, how in-depth it can actually get before things start getting messy, is really dependent on everyone involved.
Communication Is Key
Be sure to use proper and polite communication between all parties. It is easy to dismiss something as not being worthy of conversation, but the other parent deserves to know what is going on with their child just as much as you do. Keep the lines of communication up and flowing to be sure everyone stays on the same page.
The Dos and The Don'ts
The Dos and Don'ts of co-parenting are very important to a healthy relationship for your child. Lines need to be drawn when dealing with exes in any situation. You do not want your personal relationship/marriage to suffer with your current partner because they feel like you do not have proper boundaries in place.
- Be sure to communicate openly about what you are okay with and what you are not okay with. This may be an uncomfortable conversation at first but you would much rather it be a conversation and not a confrontation. This should be done with both your ex and your current spouse. Expectations need to be clear and out in the open in your relationship about your co-parenting relationship, and visa versa.
- Be respectful of your ex. It is hard to let go of hard feelings but it is healthier for your child to see that you can move past your own feelings in the best interest of theirs. Regardless of whether you do or not, your child loves their other parent too.
- Be respectful of your exes new spouse. Their spouse is helping raise your child when he/she is over there. Hopefully, this person loves and adores your child. Showing respect to this person will help solidify the stability for your child.
- Use discretion when talking to your ex. Your conversations should probably stick to the child and what is going on with him/her to avoid any hard feelings between all of the parents involved.
- Respect your child's wishes. They want to see their other parent too and do not understand what is going on. Understand that they need both of you, not just one.
- Keep adult conversation strictly adult. The kids do not need to know or hear about the issues going on involving them and the situation. It will cause them unnecessary stress.
- Don't cross lines that have been drawn. If the other parent says, "Do not call me after nine pm unless it is an emergency.", then don't do it.
- Don't be disrespectful or rude to the other parent. It may be easy to do at moments of anger or irritation but resist the urge and remember your child. A few harsh words can really cause a rift in something that was going good for your child.
- Don't put your partner on the back burner when it comes to parenting with your ex. They may not be biologically the child's parent but they do put in a lot of time and effort with your baby too.
- Don't use your child against your ex. Never say things like, "Well if you don't do this then you wont see him/her." Children are not playing chips on a board and do not deserve to be treated as such, ever.
- If there is a problem then wait until the kids are not around to discuss it, and be sure to discuss it in a respectful manner with your ex.
Putting Your Emotions Aside
When co-parenting for the benefit of your child, you must learn to put your emotions aside. It is easy to get angry or frustrated with your ex over simple things. Even if they deserve your anger for anything that they have done, your child doesn't deserve the drama. Kids pick up on tension and bad vibes from bad situations. If you and your ex are having serious issues and can hardly stand to even look at each other, whether you are civilized or not, the kids will notice and wonder what is going on.
We all have to learn at some point to love and let go. Our children need us to be strong and stable, showing them that we will do whatever it takes to ensure a brighter future for them. Divorce and separation is already a scary event for a child. They have went from living with both their mommy and their daddy, to going in-between them both and trying to comprehend what is going on. They need both of their parents showing them that they are still there for them and can be united as parents for them.
The best thing that we can do is put our hard feelings aside. Anything on a personal level at this point is not important. Learning how to deal with each other in an effective and healthy manner is what matters for the well being of your kids.
Do you co-parent with your ex?
Remember The Children
The child(ren) involved in this co-parenting situation never asked to be put here. They do not need to see their parents fighting or disagreeing with eachother. The child involved needs stability and to see that no matter what, they are loved and that their parents are still willing to work together in their best interest.
Seeking Help Isnt Giving Up
Mediation therapy was by the far best step that my ex-husband and I took towards co-parenting for our daughter. We could no for the life of us get along! His wife didn't like me, I didn't like her. He wanted completely different things than what I wanted and we could not agree on anything. After mediation, it was a completely one-eighty on the situation!
Things didn't turn out entirely as expected, but we settled on a custody agreement that we both liked and resolved all of our issues in a neutral environment. The best part was, if we had any issues outside of mediation that we could not figure out how to handle, we could call our mediator and she would put us on three way and help us resolve it!
Now to understand this, you have to know that I am an extremely passive person. I hate conflict and confrontation with a passion. However, even with that being said, we still ended up needing the therapeutic counselor involved. At first, I felt like I was a total failure at co-parenting. I had done everything I could think to do, worked out countless agreements that continued to fall through with them, and talked myself until I was blue in the face. Nothing was working. Absolutely nothing.
Finally, when the court date came around, they ordered us to try mediation or go ahead and try the case. Being the non-confrontational person I am, I really wanted to give it one more shot at trying to make this work without the court deciding the fate of our daughter. So we did, and I am so glad we did.
Getting help when you are struggling to find a middle ground co-parenting is not failure or the end of the line. It is healthy and a completely reasonable thing to do. It happens to the best of us. You and your ex-spouse could have been best friends but still end up fighting over where the child is going to be or what is in their best interest. Know that you aren't saying "I give up" but seeking help, you are doing the right thing if things just aren't working out. The mediator can help you establish a good co-parenting relationship with healthy boundaries that will create a good, stable environment for the child/children involved.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.