This article was put together by Holly. Holly isn’t one of our regular authors but had interesting information to share with you about co-parenting and successful parenting time with your kids.
“We’re forging our path through this crazy thing called parenting. And I love helping other families find their own path. Because every path is different, what works for some families won’t work for others. There’s no single “solution” to parenting. I want to help you create your own parenting blueprint or a custom parenting strategy that’s perfect for your family. I am a parenting coach.”Holly
Parenting is hard by itself. When you’re also managing complex adult relationships, parenting struggles are often amplified. But entering a co-parenting situation doesn’t have to negatively impact your kids or your relationship with your kids. Here are 5 tips to conquer co-parenting and help your kids thrive in separate homes.
Remind the Kids of the Constants
Kids of all ages are learning how to navigate the world. And human relationships are one of the most complicated aspects of life. Help your kids understand that your adult relationships have no impact on your love for them. You will be their parent, and provide unconditional love, no matter what. Provide this reassurance regularly. Demonstrate this by giving them your undivided attention regularly. Take an interest in what they’re working on, get involved in hobbies they enjoy, and ask what issues you might be able to help them with.
Rethink your Parenting Plan
Family dynamics are unique. As your family constellation changes, your parenting plan needs to change with it. Whether you’re just separating from your partner, adding a step-parent to the mix, or creating a blended family, you’ll need to consider the unique aspects of your family and create a new plan.
It might be tempting to seek out advice from other parents in similar situations and try to fit our family into their plan. This rarely works because families and individuals are so different. You might find it hard to adjust to a cookie-cutter parenting plan. You could use the help of a parenting coach near you who will help you come up with an effective plan.
When developing a plan, it’s a good idea to ensure each child has an opportunity to build and maintain a bond with each parenting figure in their life. One easy way to do this is to continue things that were working before the separation. For example, if dad took Jimmy to basketball practice every Wednesday, it’s a good idea to keep this as part of the plan. If you’re introducing a new adult, find a way for that adult to build special bonds with the children.
Have a Solid Communication Plan to Build Positive Co-Parenting
One of the most overlooked aspects of co-parenting is creating a solid communication plan. This needs to be well thought out and documented so you can reference back. Will you have weekly or monthly meetings? What items should be discussed via email? What’s acceptable to discuss via text? Do you have a shared document for expenses? How will you keep track of the kid’s schedules and activities? Take some time to flush out all these details, but keep in mind that it will likely change! As your lives evolve and your children grow, your communication needs will change, so also have a plan for revisiting your communication strategy.
Create a two-home concept
Strive to build a foundation where your children feel comfortable and at home in two separate homes. Avoid using terminology that would elevate one home above the other. For example, don’t reference one place as their “real home” and the other as their “visiting home”. And definitely avoid the legal terms of your parenting arrangement, like custodial parent, non-custodial parent, visitation, etc. Instead, use terms like Mom’s house, Dad’s house, parenting time.
It’s important to note that just because you are striving to create two equal homes, neither will have the same rules. Kids can and will adjust to different rules, just as they do at school, church, the library, etc.
Don’t Manage Minutes
One of the foundational principles of positive parenting is to spend focused time building a strong relationship with your kids. You can do this in just a few minutes a day. It can be easy to feel as though you’re at a disadvantage if you see your kids fewer days or hours than your co-parent. But the truth is you don’t need much time to have an amazing relationship. Instead of focusing on the number of minutes or hours you have with them, focus on how you can make the most of those minutes.
Adopt a Separate, but United Philosophy While Co-Parenting
Successful co-parenting starts with a foundation of shared values. It’s important for the co-parents to agree on these shared values, but each parent may have a different strategy for parenting based on those values. It’s ok to acknowledge the differences, but stay united by your shared values.
So what does this look like in practice? You can disagree, but support your co-parent, especially in front of kids. That means no badmouthing or name-calling. Acknowledge your child’s frustration, and maybe even sympathize. But refrain from criticizing.
Co-parenting is often a delicate situation, but with a plan and a few foundational discussions, you can conquer co-parenting. If you’re struggling to find a great parenting plan for your family, consider consulting a parenting coach.