3 Must Haves For Successful Co-Parenting

The word “divorce” is often perceived as a bad word by participants and outsiders alike. It evokes negative emotions that can brew the most awful stew. The anger, resentment and loneliness create a recipe for disaster. If you understand this wicked recipe, you can see how difficult and draining the process is over time. It has the potential to leave a trail of despair for everyone involved, especially children.

Divorce with kids is particularly challenging. While the process requires a physical separation from a partner, it also demands a high level of emotional support to the children who are impacted from the disruption in both home and lifestyle. Surviving it all requires a balance not always possible to achieve. Imagine the difficulties and pressures presented when learning to mesh the parenting styles.

We enter marriage with the ideal of spending the rest our lives with someone. Raising children is often part of the life we’ve planned for ourselves with partners. Sharing the responsibility with a spouse is included in the design laid out for the future. Divorce is a life-changing event we don’t count on experiencing. It leaves couples trying to figure out how to parent together without being together.

Reality hit my life about 10 years ago. I had no clue how I’d weather the storm of divorce. More bewildering was the concept of co-parenting with my soon to be ex-husband. The challenging period of calculating payments, schedules and sharing of parental responsibilities was being handled by trial and error. There was no right way, as we learned in time. Getting it to work was about finding a comfort zone that would promote respect and consideration for all parties involved including our daughter. Many times we agreed to disagree, as it was easier.

Collaborative co-parenting isn’t for everyone. Some circumstances don’t allow for this arrangement. You should choose a plan that suits your situation. Making this type of parenting style work requires a mature and level headed attitude from both adults.

The work involved in writing the book “A Journey to Becoming the Best Self ” called for a personal study of my co-parenting situation. This book was born years after my divorce. The experience provided many lessons that I now offer to others as helpful insight. In the book, I discuss some key factors that have contributed to successful co-parenting. I’ll leave the details of the process for the book but will share three essential building blocks. If you’re considering taking on this arrangement after divorce, consider these three nuggets of wisdom.

  1. Children First:  A certain level of selflessness is involved in co-parenting. It means having to set aside your personal feelings about the divorce and ex-spouse. You don’t have to commit to being friends but you do have to respect the child (children) that you made together. The little being you both love and want to create a nurturing environment for, fueling stability and security in their lives. Kids needs must be placed ahead of ours while we calibrate the co-parenting arrangement.
  2. Don’t Personalize: Emotions run high during divorce. Anger, frustration and emotional devastation can make couples lose their cool. Restraining yourself from all verbal and physical confrontations are crucial to everyone’s well-being. Parents must make a commitment to avoid any type of volatile behavior that will create a hostile environment. Co-parenting is about the children not the parents. Keep their best interests in mind instead of making the situation personal. If adult matters need to be discussed, save the discussions for a private moment.
  3. Forgiveness: It would have been nearly impossible to co-parent without pledging forgiveness. Not only for your partner but yourself as well. I had to learn to forgive myself. The feeling of failure was difficult to overcome. When divorce came, I felt badly that I couldn’t make my marriage work. It was worse to think I let my daughter down. Letting go of ill feelings from the situation should come over time but takes work on both sides.

Co-parenting successfully is possible but requires strength, acceptance and tolerating more than you would if you didn’t have a child together. It does not, however, signify putting up with bad or abusive behavior but it might take compromising more often. Negotiating a halfway point to make it fair for everyone so they can get what they need out of a tough situation.

This article was originally posted and written for Smartparent.com

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