As parents we all want our children to be happy and to enjoy their childhood. It seems like only yesterday they were babies and before you know it they will be flying the nest. So it is all the more important that the few very short years of childhood are as good as they can be and we don’t put our adult pressures or views onto our children.
We all have hopes and dreams for our children and we would do anything necessary and then some to enable them to be happy and well rounded adults. The ‘job’ of mum and dad doesn’t come with a job description and this is even more evident following a separation or divorce. The pressure we put upon ourselves of the ‘unwritten rules’ that need to be followed and fear of failing can be immense. Throw into the mix being amicable and reasonable after what is a very upsetting and unsettling time it is no surprise that parents can end up carrying animosity into trying to bring up their children together. What is often forgotten is that you and your ex will still have the same hopes and dreams for your children but the path to achieving this might not now be as clear.
So what does co-parenting mean?
Co-parenting will mean different things to different people but it will include working together to help your children through their journey from the good times to the sad times, from the first boyfriend or girlfriend to exam stresses, from setting boundaries to problem solving and a million other day to day issues in-between.
Co-parenting is also being on the same page. In reality you won’t agree with your ex about everything and this would also have been the case even if you hadn’t separated, but these disagreements are magnified by a separation. However for the most part you won’t want your children to witness arguments between you and you will want them to see you working together. As we grow older we realize that our children often follow a parent’s example opposed to following their advice, so co-parenting in many ways is about setting a good example to your children
Here are seven tips which I have used whilst helping many families and I feel are the cornerstones to successfully co-parenting:
1.The 4 C’s – Communication, Compromise, Co-operation and Consistency
If you stop talking, your children are the ones who can suffer. I accept it is a complicated dynamic situation and it isn’t necessary to constantly communicate, or to talk on the phone for hours but, it is crucial to discuss the big issues and agree a plan. Talk about problems as they arise and don’t let them fester. Be prepared to compromise if you can see that this will benefit your children. Try to co-operate and work with your ex instead of against them and when you agree a plan stick to it as far as you can as your children will thrive upon a consistent approach being taken by you and your ex.
2.Don’t blame each other when things might not go as planned.
3.Leave the past in the past.
Avoid bringing up things from the past. Always remember that the present may be challenging but it is made more difficult when we bring in the past.
4.Dont be guided by what is seen as being the ‘social norm’
We all have friends or family member who have separated but what is right for them might not be right for you and your children. However despite the history which has led you to where you are, being able to talk is key to co-parenting. You’re not doing it out of forgiveness for your ex but you are doing it for the good for your children.
5.There are boundaries – Don’t cross them.
Good co-parenting and getting along like two old friends might be hard for some couples because maybe if there are still feelings there or it’s just too sad. Try to remember that co-parenting is all about the children and what is best for them. It might be hard, but you are doing it for them. I’m not saying it is easy but I’m saying it is worth it!
6.Try to put yourself into your children’s’ shoes.
“How would I feel if I was a 11 year old, and if my mum couldn’t even look at my dad?” What message will that give? Putting your own adult difficulties to one side and this might help you make the right decision for your children despite this not always being what you want.
7.Consider a parenting plan
I have sat with many parents to work through what they want for their children, to put together a parenting plan. This gets the foundations right from an early stage. If you want to know more about this then we will happily talk through the process with you.
There will be times you make mistakes and there will be times your ex drives you mad. It won’t happen overnight; you are only human and tomorrow is another day!
Effective co-parenting can end up being a really positive experience, because even though you are no longer together with your children’s other parent, you are raising your children together, which is in most circumstances what they need, and what in the end is fulfilling.
If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog or any other family related matters please do not hesitate to contact either Joanna on firstname.lastname@example.org