Whether by choice or as a result of a separation, many children grow up in two different households. Their parents are co-parenting, meaning that they are raising their children without living together. Coping with the separation (if one occurred), arranging schedules and agreeing on a set of common rules, whilst all the while ensuring the welfare of the kids are just some of the things you need to consider when you are a co-parent. Here are a few key tips to help you deal with the challenge of co-parenting.
Treat your co-parent with respect
Whatever your story is with your co-parent, always treat him or her as a colleague. Think about it this way: you have a common project which is raising happy children and ensuring their well-being, no matter what. Keeping a respectful relationship is essential to maintaining a healthy and stable environment for your kids.
Your kids love you both – so don’t badmouth your co-parent
Remember that your children love you equally. So, even if you hold a grudge against your co-parent, never say a bad word about him or her in front of your children, as this could easily hurt their feelings. Moreover, your kids are not your go-between. If you have something to say to your co-parent, say it directly to him or her instead of sending your children to deliver the message for you!
Keep the dialogue open with your co-parent
Seeing your children one week out of two can be hard. You might have the feeling that you’re missing important events in their lives. Therefore, it’s essential that you share the things that happened while the kids were in your custody (whether this is a good mark, an argument with another child or any pictures you took of your kids). This will ensure that both of you feel fully involved in your children’s upbringing. When your co-parent comes to pick up the kids, always take the time to discuss school, activities or anything else concerning your children.
Arrange custody according to your kids’ age and personality
Whether it’s one week with Dad and then one week with Mom, or a case of splitting the week in half between the two households, there are several possibilities when it comes to shared custody. To find the right arrangement, you need to consider your child’s age and personality first. While babies and toddlers might need to spend the majority of their time with their Mom, older kids are better adapted to divide their time equally between their two parents. In addition, choose a schedule that best suits your co-parent and you, depending on your personal commitments and job. Once you’ve found one that works, stick with it (until your children grow up and need another schedule), as kids need routine and structure.
Coordinate the rules
Going to bed at 8 pm with Dad and having no fixed schedule for bedtime with Mom can be confusing for kids, who need a stable environment. For your children’s welfare, sit down with your co-parent and agree on a common set of rules, for instance, meal time, bedtime, doing chores, if and when TV and computer games are allowed, etc. However, don’t forget to be a little flexible: if your co-parent let them watch their favorite movie last night as a treat, it’s all right. Let it go!
Take care of yourself when you don’t have custody
When you have custody, you hardly have time for yourself. In addition to your job and the numerous house chores, you have to go back and forth to school, accompany the kids to their activities, birthday parties or to the mall, cook dinner and help them with their homework, and all of that by yourself. Raising a child on your own is tiring. So, when the kids are with your co-parent, enjoy this free time and avoid the burnout by treating yourself and going out with friends. Your children will appreciate seeing their parents all relaxed and happy!