Looking for tips for coparenting? We’ve got them!
A lot of our content centers around relationships with our significant others and how we can connect more deeply and intimately with them. Today, we’d like to address relationships with former significant others, specifically those who are co-parenting together. Here are 7 tips for coparenting to help you navigate these often murky waters.
7 Tips for Coparenting
1. Separate the co-parenting relationship from the personal relationship. You and your former partner might not be able to make a romantic relationship work, but coparenting is a whole different type of relationship, and this one is built upon the needs of the kids. If the coparent is safe, loving, and a good parent to the kids, we have to let that be the truth of the new relationship. It’s not that we wipe the slate clean, but more that we find the help we need to process hurts from the partnership in order to show up and support eachother as coparents.
2. If surprise phone calls, meeting requests, or visits to talk about the kids, can create anxiety for you, try setting up an agreed time, maybe once a week, to talk about the issues at hand. This way, you’re not caught off guard and can mentally and emotionally prepare for the discussion.
3. If there are a lot of unhealed hurts, find someone who can help you untangle those hurts. Whether you’re fresh out of a divorce, or your relationship has always been that of coparents outside of marriage, coparenting with a former partner can be triggering. They may still behave in ways that were hurtful during your union, or maybe just the sight of them brings up a lot of pain for you. No matter what’s behind the hurt, you don’t have to try to heal it alone. A qualified professional can help you gain new perspectives and grow in ways that mend the heart. At the very least, being able to vent to a safe person about the very real challenges that come with coparenting with a former love can help us work through the difficult emotions.
4. If there is a lot of conflict but both partners are willing to try to sort it out, try finding someone who can help you both find middle ground. Even if marriage or relationship therapy was unsuccessful in repairing your union, the goal now is to coparent from a place that is best for the kids. A professional in this situation might just act as a mediator to help you communicate better, a neutral party to help you determine an agreed-upon approach to the near future, or, they may even help you both re-establish a mutual sense of respect as coparents. If you and your former partner go this route, it can feel a little less intimidating if you both agree on the professional you’ll see. At the very least, try to find someone who practices neutrality and understands your unique family dynamics.
5. Do not be afraid to set boundaries, and likewise, listen to and do your best to respect the other parent’s boundaries. Boundaries in a coparenting situation can vary widely, but some of the common ones is last-minute changes to schedules, scheduling things for the other parent, talking negatively about the other parent, as well as boundaries about parental rules and sharing of information. When setting boundaries, it can be helpful to think about how you might respond to your coparent crossing a boundary, so you can calmly and assertively communicate that. If we wait until the heat of the moment to construct a response, it can sometimes be difficult to respond without escalating the situation.
6. If there is significant disagreement on a specific parenting issue, determine if it’s a hill you’re willing to die on. Of course, the safety and well-being of the children is most important, but hot button items like bed time and screen time may have some wiggle room. One way to approach this is to reverse engineer it and start with the goal in mind. For example, if the goal of a set bedtime is to have healthy, well-balanced kids who aren’t tired, we can look past the specific logistics of bedtimes and ask if the goal can be achieved, even if the bedtimes are different at each home. Another way to approach it is to teach your kids about how to take care of their bodies, including sleep hygiene, so they understand what it means to get enough sleep, the consequences of not getting enough sleep, and how to find balance for themselves. Which leads us to number 7.
7. If your coparent shares values and beliefs with your children that you don’t agree with, instead of shooting down their viewpoint, try offering alternative viewpoints and teach your children about critical thinking, which will allow them to make up their own minds. Granted, the goal isn’t for them to adopt your viewpoint, but rather, be able to come to an educated decision on how they feel about something, as well as see things from different points of view. This is a powerful lifeskill that will serve them well, and it frees you up from trying to manage what your coparent instills in them, which can reduce a lot of stress.
Of course, putting these 7 tips to work can be easier said than done, but the effort can go a long way in a coparenting situation. The more we, as coparents, can show up for our kids as a united front, the better chance we have at raising healthy, well-adjusted children- and the better chance we have at getting through this difficult period, sanity intact.
If you and your coparent are struggling to find common ground, but there is a willingness to make it work (or at least give it an earnest shot), a relationship coach may be able to help. At any rate, if you feel you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out- you don’t have to do this alone.