Co-parenting is a term that describes more than one person caring for a child. Typically, those who choose to co-parent were together at one point, but are now separated or divorced. These people still interact with each other to raise their children. Even when sharing the responsibility of parenting may seem impossible, there’s hope.
First of all, making the decision to co-parent is one that you should be proud of. It’s a very mature decision, and it means you’re a good parent, one who wants a bright future for your child, no matter your personal feelings. Let’s take a look at four important things to remember when co-parenting in a healthy way.
The whole idea of co-parenting is putting your child first. In order to do this, you need to remember to look at the situation through their eyes. Depending on his or her age, this may be a big change for them or may confuse them.
If they have questions for you or you notice a change in their emotions or behavior as you begin your co-parenting journey, remember this is normal. If this happens, be patient with your child, reassure them they are still loved and going to be cared for, and be present with them. Being present means giving them your full attention when you are with them; for example, when you are actively with your child, don’t spend much time on your phone or be distracted by other things. Make eye contact and get down on their level.
Co-parenting is also about moving forward, not looking backward. Whatever happened between you and the person you are co-parenting with is history. Yes, these things may still be painful, and there may still be things that you need to heal from. However, focusing on these things will not benefit your child. Think about the future you want for your son or daughter, and how you can both help him or her get there.
There is a good chance you and your co-parenting partner will never have the relationship that you used to have. It’s likely you loved this person at one point, and no matter what happened between the two of you, those deep feelings don’t always leave right away. However, one of the keys to successful co-parenting is being able to separate your personal feelings from your child’s needs.
It may help to have a close group of friends to be able to share your personal and relational feelings with. If you are able to express how you feel in a safe way, you won’t have to bring those thoughts into your parenting situation, where they will affect your child. And try not to talk negatively about your child’s other parent when around your child, or even within hearing range. It can cause division, harsh feelings, and extra stress on your child. If this doesn’t seem to be enough, there is nothing wrong with getting professional help to work through some of the pain that your former relationship has caused. Becoming aware of your personal feelings will help you become a better parent and co-parenting partner.
Lastly – sharing communication, responsibility, and the ability to make decisions for your children is important. These things can feel exhausting, and may not always be easy to do, but they are the foundation of your co-parenting relationship. Some parents decide it’s easier for one person to make all of the decisions, while others may decide to make every decision together. It’s important to sit down and discuss these things. How will you communicate and how often? How will you handle schedules, sharing time with your child, and attending events for your child such as sporting events and band concerts? Figuring out these details can relieve a lot of stress in your co-parenting relationship.
Whatever happens, remember that it’s so important for your child to have both their mom and their dad in their life. Even though it may be hard, take it one day at a time, and be proud of the love that you both have for your child.