Co-parenting is a very difficult thing to do. Most of the time is stressful and exhausting. There is no manual to follow and this can often leave people as if they are feeling their way through the dark. Not everyone has the same situation, however, some of the things listed below may be beneficial in working towards successful co-parenting.
Something that I hear a lot between people that are co-parenting is how difficult communicating with their ex-partner can be. How do you communicate with someone who has hurt you previously or someone you no longer get along with? Breakdowns in communication causes frustration, hurt, and confusing situations for both the parent and the child. If you don’t have any formal type of arrangement, you feel lost, insecure in your decisions, or even guilt. These are all normal feelings and are overwhelming at times.
The best way to combat this is to lay out a plan with your co-parent. Collaboration is essential when attempting to create a working parent plan. A plan combats feelings of resentment that build up if one parent feels as if they are giving more than another or they are providing more to the child than another parent. Be open to listening to what your co-parent is sharing and what their concerns are. If you feel like this is a struggle for one or both of you, consider attending a co-parenting class together or going to see a mediator to help along the discussion. Better communication between parents is a safeguard for your child which will increase feelings of being accepted and comfortable in their homes while decreasing parental conflict.
How Do I Keep my Child Safe?
First and foremost, if there are concerns about safety have conversations with your child about what to do in case of an emergency. While this is not a conversation that any parent wants to have and can truthfully be quite nerve wracking, it’s important that your child knows to reach out to 911 if necessary. Coming up with a detailed safety plan can also ease some stress for both you and your child. Examples of safety plans may include giving your child access to a cell phone to reach out for help, identifying safe zones in the home, or reaching out to neighbors. Additionally, have some check-ins with your child throughout the time they are apart from you to see how they are doing.
If you are truly concerned that your child is unsafe with their other parent you do not have to send them into danger. Violating a parenting plan is not braking the law although a toxic ex may try and lead you to believe so. Even if the police are called they will not rip your child from your home or take you to jail. You may get sanctioned by the court, but you would end up in court regardless if you need to fight for custody of your child due to abuse or neglect.
If you need help please call a lawyer to get legal advise.
Rules and Boundaries
It can be so hard to be on the same page with your co-parent! However, these rules are what can create a cohesive unit and in turn, help your child feel as if they have more stability in both homes. Not having a consistent set of rules at both homes can lead to the child feeling confused and as if they have to play catch up each time they enter a different home.
This usually increases disruptive behaviors in the child when that may show up at school or in the home and may look like defiance, depression, anxiety, anger, resistance, etc. Many people dismiss these behaviors and label the kid as naughty when in reality, the child is attempting to adjust to new expectations and the confusion that ensues. Children may struggle to understand why they are allowed to do one thing at one parent’s house but not the others, leaving the child upset with one parent.
Talk with your co-parent about bedtime and morning routines to keep them as close as possible. In doing so, your child can continue to establish and maintain healthy sleep hygiene skills and will be better equipped to handle emotional difficulties throughout the day. Additionally, having the child complete chores or set time for homework at both sets of parent’s will ensure that the child is more used to a routine versus feeling overwhelmed at one parent’s house versus another. Sticking with a core group of rules can be beneficial for both parents as well as it increases continuity for the child. Making certain that your child has consistent routines at both places will help both you and your child have smoother transitions from one parent’s house to another.
Triangulation is when you use a third person to communicate in a partnership; for instance, using your child to communicate with your co-parent or saying things to your child about their other parent. At the end of the day, your child still needs to be a kid, and neither of these are appropriate forms of communication and can often leave the child feeling like they are in a never-ending game of tug-of-war.
There are valid reasons that you and your partner did not work out.
That being said, your child does not need to know the intricate details or faults of their parent. Talking poorly about your ex to your child or talking to your child as if they are your confidant, can lead to increased anxiety and internal conflict for your child and as children, they do not know how to properly compartmentalize and understand such complex emotions.
It may also make them feel as if they need to choose one parent over the other. For children, this may bring feelings of depression, anxiety, or poor school performance. If this is something that you struggle with, try getting your feelings out about your ex in healthier ways. Such ways could include therapy, journaling, or talking with a friend. Additionally, communicating through your child with your ex can leave a lot of room for error.
For instance, have you ever played the telephone game and by the end of the game the secret is something outrageous? This can happen when kids are forced to relay messages from one parent to another. Messages can be misconstrued or twisted, which is frustrating not to mention exhausting for all parties involved! This is why it is important to communicate directly with your ex-partner rather than going through your child, as difficult as it may be. Emails or text messages can be helpful in communicating with your ex as it can provide you with a reference point to refer back to.
In the best of situations co-parenting isn’t easy. it is never a cookie cutter situation. The best advice is to always keep your kid in mind when making decisions. How does xyz impact THEM? Really. If you truly consider the impact on your child, you should be headed in the right direction.
Please contact me if you would like to set up an appointment or would like a referral to an attorney or mediator.