If you are going through a rough divorce, you may wonder how you are going to successfully co-parent your children. You will be working with your ex on parenting issues for many years to come. What if you can’t agree on basic things? What if your ex undermines your authority or lets your kids break the rules?
Parenting together after an acrimonious divorce can be a challenge. For one thing, the term “co-parenting” often makes it sound like you’ll be working intimately with your ex on every parenting decision. It need not be that way. One method that you may want to try is solo parenting at intervals, or tag-team parenting.
Set up a firm parenting schedule and agree on some basic ground rules. Then, keep to the schedule and try not to break the rules. Finally, take a deep breath and find a way to let go of the details. If you can do that, you can parent as a team even as you parent separately.
It’s important to co-parent inclusively
Studies have shown that children of divorce are better off psychologically, behaviorally and academically when they have positive, stable relationships with both of their parents. This is especially true when kids see their parents working together to do what is best for them.
Doing that may not be easy, but it is necessary. You and your divorcing spouse may have very different opinions about child-rearing. Or, you may have things in common, but the acrimony of the divorce has made it hard to work together. Either way, try to remember that in the vast majority of cases, both parents are trying to do their best.
Mediation may be a way for you to reconnect with the parenting values you share. Here in North Carolina, the courts require a good-faith attempt at mediating child custody disputes before your case goes in front of a judge. Through mediation, you may be able to communicate effectively about your values and find areas of agreement.
Parent in a way that respects your ex and your children
Since it’s so important for children to have strong relationships with both of their parents, you can support your children by trying not to undermine your ex. Try to parent using the Golden Rule. Respect your ex’s authority as you would like them to respect yours.
Commit to working out any disputes behind the scenes. Commit not to put your kids in the middle. Commit to cooperating with your ex even when you disagree, to some extent, with their decisions.
Passing off the baton of authority
You can have different rules at your house and your ex’s house. You can have different ways of making decisions. You can have different parenting styles. If you are working together with your ex, your children will survive the differences and may even thrive in two very different households.
What you need to do is communicate your plans clearly (not using your children as messengers) and respectfully. Agree that what one parent decides to do should be supported by the other parent most of the time. Agree to work out your differences directly.
You can parent the way you think it should be done on your time and leave your children’s other parent free to handle things their way on their time. It just takes a commitment to let go of the small stuff.
Focus on the big picture. Focus on your children’s wellbeing. Focus on your values.
If, after making a solid effort, you find that your parenting order is not workable, discuss your concerns with your divorce attorney. You may be able to modify the agreement.