Co-parenting a child following a divorce or separation can be incredibly challenging; particularly if the relationship didn’t end amicably. However, you’ll be pleased to know that there are several steps that you can take that will not only help make co-parenting easier, but will also help your relationship with your child. Here are our six rules for the newly divorced parent:
Although you may no longer be best friends with your ex-partner, it’s in your child’s best interests that you stay on amicable terms with each other.
Although you may no longer be a couple, you still need to act as a parenting team. Although you should still have a say in the development and parenting of your child, you also need to accept that your ex-partner has a say, too. If you can still be amicable and make joint decisions, you’ll find it simpler to raise a child together and your child will understand the clear structure they have.
It is important that you acknowledge your child’s right to spend time with, communicate with and have a relationship with the other parent.
If a Consent Order or a Parenting Plan has been used to determine how much time the child should spend with each parent, then it’s important that you stick to the plan, as this course of action will save you from any other legal difficulties while also making your responsibilities to your child clear.
By acknowledging the agreed arrangements and pledging to stick with it, you’ll both have a firm basis for a relationship with your child (and each other) going forward.
Communication means learning to communicate with each other to make joint decisions and address any ongoing issues about your child, but also letting your child communicate with the other parent.
You should keep both lines of communication open as much as possible.
Co-parenting isn’t easy, which is why communicating regularly is so important.
It’s important to remember that although divorce is difficult for you and your ex-partner, it’s also difficult for your child. It’s likely that they’ll have a number of questions about the divorce process and how it will change their life.
You should answer these questions as much as you possibly can, but as part of your new co-parenting relationship, you should both make sure that you’re happy with the answers provided. At all times, you should avoid being derogatory about the other parent and allow your child to have their own relationship with them.
As part of the divorce or separation, the way that you, your ex-partner and your child live your lives will undoubtedly change.
To give your child some structure, you and your ex-partner should decide on some ground rules for your child together, as this will give them consistency and will also mean that the two of you cannot be played off against each other.
While you should be making all major long-term decisions together, which include:
- Religious and cultural upbringing;
- The name/names by which the child is known; and
- Any changes to the child’s living arrangements that make it significantly more difficult for the child to spend time with each parent;
You should also work as a team to decide things like:
- Technology usage – when and for how long can technology be used?
- Homework – when and where must it be completed?
- Curfews – make sure your child has the same curfew at each home
You and your ex-partner may not love each other romantically anymore, but in order for your co-parenting relationship to work, you do need to respect each other.
Your parenting styles may be different, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that your ex-partner’s parenting style is wrong and it’s important that you let them parent in their own way and respect the day-to-day decisions they make for the child.
However, if you believe that the way that your ex-partner is parenting your child contravenes your parenting agreement or a Consent Order, or if they are making major long-term decisions for the child without agreement or consultation with you, then you should raise this as an issue. If, on the other hand, the issues that concern you are day-to-day ones, such as what the child eats, what the child wears, what time they go to bed, or how they are punished, then provided the child is not being put at harm or risk then you shouldn’t intervene.
Needless arguing will only alienate your child, who still needs a solid relationship with their parents in order to flourish.
You also need to remember that you’re not in charge of how your child feels about the other parent. You should not attempt to influence this relationship in any way or ask them to divulge details about their relationship or the time they have spent with the other parent. Sure, you can ask them how their time was and speak to them in a positive way about what sorts of things they did, but this should not be done in a way that puts any pressure on the children to be ‘reporting back’ on what they did or didn’t do while in the other parent’s care.
Co-parenting needs boundaries in order to succeed, so even if you’re tempted to ask about the other parent or ask your child for details about them, it’s far better if you ask the other parent directly. If your child feels like they’re merely being used as a conduit for information, then they’re less likely to enjoy their time with you. So, instead, while they’re with you, focus on your relationship with them and enjoy your time together.
Co-parenting is not easy and you’ll experience various ups and downs during the process. However, you should never give up. Yes, you’ll both make mistakes along the way – you’re only human, and it’s a highly emotional time – but your co-parenting relationship will strengthen over time, helping your child get along in the world.
Although it’s undoubtedly difficult, always remember the greater cause: your child. Once you’ve raised a happy, healthy child, it will all feel worthwhile. So, above all else, remember that whatever happens, don’t give up. Your child is depending on you!
I listen to my clients and tailor my advice to meet their individual needs and objectives.