5 Essentials Steps to Successful Coparenting
Successful co-parenting happens when you both realize that your divorce - or break-up - may have ended your relationship, but not your responsibilities as parents. Sadly, the majority of couples who separate don't realize they can raise their kids together successfully - even though they no longer live together. At first, it may seem that co-parenting is simply impossible. Keep in mind, however, that you are not jointly parenting. Co-parenting means doing your best to cooperate with each other to ensure the most consistent and least disruptive path for your kids.
So, if you're considering co-parenting - or attempting it right now, these steps + advice will help guide you:
Step #1 - Keep your feelings about each other out of your kids' hearts + heads. No matter how angry, betrayed, or bitter you may still feel, if you can't put a lid on it in front of the kids - failure as co-parents is inevitable. Co-parenting requires maturity, grace, + stamina. Find an appropriate outlet for your unresolved feelings. Talking to your ex about the kids simply cannot become your time to vent.
Step #2 - Carrots work better than sticks. Maintain respect for your ex - this person is your kids' other parent. Even if the other co-parent's involvement is minimal, your kids benefit from this contact. Praise for the other parent's efforts is a strong predictor of co-parenting success.
Step #3 - Keep the lines of communication open. Communication lies at the heart of any relationship. If your marriage or relationship suffered from a lack of communication, resolve - for the kids' sake - to find a way to communicate. Technology is a handy solution - if you prefer not to meet in person or chat on the cell. Find the tools - and the commitment - by which respectful communication takes place.
Step #4 - Allow for change + scary feelings. Your agreement to co-parent represents yet another change - on top of the huge change everyone experienced when you divorced or separated. It's okay to feel scared because it signals that you recognize your kids' futures are at stake. Co-parenting is a formidable challenge - and - realistically - why would you not feel just a bit scared?
Step #5 - Talk + listen to your kids. Your kids will want to know the nuts + bolts of the new parenting arrangement. Little kids, for example, will want to know where Santa Claus will visit. Or how the Tooth Fairy will find them. Older kids will want to know if friends can visit at both homes - and if they'll need to change schools. Don't expect every last detail to get ironed out immediately. Encourage your kids to share their concerns + questions with both of you. Family meetings are ideal - if you can swing it - so everyone gets the opportunity to be heard.