What is co-parenting and how can you do it successfully?

Co-parenting has become a popular choice for families in recent years. But what is it, exactly? And how can you make it work for your family?

If you're no longer together with your child's mother or father, it can be challenging to negotiate the new dynamics of your relationship. You may not have had to consider certain issues before you became separated parents. However, co-parenting is becoming more and more normalised; even the Kardashians are getting involved. 

The most important thing about co-parenting is to put your differences aside for the sake of your child. You should make coherent and respectful decisions that ensure your child doesn't get caught up in your relationship. 

Your child will understandably be a little affected by the change in your dynamic - they may feel torn between you, frustrated, and misunderstood. However, you can do things to make sure that you co-parent successfully and your child doesn't bear the brunt of you and your partner no longer being together.

What is co-parenting?

Co-parenting means that you still tackle the task of parenting as a team, even though you’re no longer together. You encourage the best relationship possible between you, your child, and the other co-parent.

Co-parenting will help your child thrive despite your separation. You'll need to be able to set aside your differences, however difficult your break-up might have been, to be the best parents you can be. It requires you to prioritise the love you have for your child over the feelings of resentment or dislike that you may feel towards your ex-partner. 

What can I do to make sure I’m a good co-parent?

Communicate with your ex-partner

Instead of using your child to communicate, talk to one another. Relying on your child to be the messenger allows for things to get lost in translation, and it’s not fair to put the responsibility on your child. If talking with your partner is particularly hard and it’s likely to end up in an argument, try alternative methods of communication where you're less likely to upset each other.

For example, it can be hard to read how someone might be saying something over text, and your tone can be misinterpreted. If you choose to communicate via messages, keep this in mind and take time to cool off if something starts to get to you. Instead of texts or emails, perhaps a phone call will work better for you. 

If you struggle to effectively communicate with each other when dropping off or picking up your child, prepare instead for a speedy and friendly exchange. Try to avoid anything that might add extra drama, such as bringing a new partner along. 

You don’t have to force yourself into having a conversation if you know it'll be difficult, so you can keep things short. Parenting communication can be hard even if you’re in a happy relationship, so do what you can to make sure your child is in the best position possible, and don’t be too hard on yourself.

Plan effectively

If you've made arrangements in court regarding a parenting plan, such as a child arrangements order, stick to these agreements. If this isn't something you have in place, get together with your ex-partner to think up an arrangement that works for you both. Be prepared to compromise so that things can be hassle-free for both parties. 

Although it might seem like a daunting task to organise when you and your ex-partner have your child, the sooner you make a consistent plan, the sooner your child will feel settled within their new routine. Children thrive when they have consistency, so try to stick to the schedule you agree on. 

Life happens, and things do come up, which is okay. An effective way to manage this is by sharing an online calendar. If there are any key dates regarding your child or events that may be happening in your life, you can stay organised and plan ahead.

Be generous and respectful

Your ability to compromise will be a huge part of keeping your relationship on good terms. If your child is still young, stay positive and encourage them to do nice things for your ex-partner’s birthday, mother’s day, or father's day. A little bit of generosity and effort goes a long way, which may be reciprocated. 

Your relationship with your ex-partner can be challenging if things didn’t end on good terms; however, this has to be kept separate from your child’s relationship. Asking your child to choose between you can create bad feelings between you and your ex-partner and is likely to make your child quite uncomfortable. 

However frustrated you may be by your ex-partner's behaviour or parenting style, it’s unfair to involve your child in this to try to influence their opinions and relationships. Keep your differences wholly separate and private, and never ask them to choose. 

Disagree in private 

It's okay to have disagreements and not always be on the same page. It'd be unrealistic to expect otherwise. However, disagreements aren’t something that should involve your child . 

Dropping off or picking up your child isn't the time to discuss tense or sensitive issues that you may have. If you need to have a conversation about a difficult situation, keep your child out of it and discuss this at a time when they're not around. 

Be realistic and fair

Even though you might want your child to split their time evenly between  you and your partner after you’ve separated, this might not be the most realistic or easiest option. The split you want won't always work out best for your child; you need to be selfless and prioritise what’s best for your child over what's best for you. 

If your child already has a routine in place before your break-up, which might involve your ex spending a little more time with them, it’s worth keeping this in mind and working your schedule around it. 

Share positive memories of your time with the other parent

You can still enjoy aspects of your child's life despite not being together. When you spend time with your child, feel free to share pleasant memories or things your child did with your ex-partner so that you can both enjoy them. You're likely to miss your child when you're away from them, so sharing photos with each other will also help you feel secure and connected.

Final thoughts from Kami

Successful co-parenting doesn't happen overnight. It takes time, patience, and effort to create the best situation for your kids. You might not get it right the first time, but every mistake is a learning curve. Co-parenting is about being selfless and prioritising what's best for your child despite your feelings about your ex-partner. 

It can take years to find what works for you but keep in mind that your child will still be able to thrive if you’ve been through a divorce or separation, as long as you stay civil to each other and keep your child’s best interests at heart.

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