Chris Schauer, father of one, says, “I may not like my ex sometimes, but we are responsible for raising the best person possible.” You may not be husband and wife anymore, but you are still father and mother to your children, and those are lifelong roles. Check out these five co-parenting best practices to help raise emotionally healthy children.
Communication. Deal directly with the other parent through the phone, text or email and don’t use the kids as a go-between. Consider an online sync-able calendar like Google Calendar so both parents know what’s going on as far as birthday parties, sports events, sleepovers, health appointments, etc. This is also a great place to park school project deadlines.
Celebrations. Shawne Pennington, mom of two sons, shares an idea that has worked for her family: “For the birthdays, whichever parent has the boy on his birth date, that is who our child celebrates it with, and that side of the family. The other parent celebrates either the week before or the week after. Major holidays we alternate, so whoever has the actual holiday, the other has the kids the night before.”
Consideration. Allow your kids to build a relationship with the other parent while also staying involved. Pennington says, “Every night whoever doesn’t have the boys calls around 9 pm to see how their day was and tell them goodnight.” Don’t try to be the cool parent by letting them get away with more, buying them stuff or letting them eat lots of junk, as this is disrespectful to the other parent. Don’t let your child say negative things about the other parent either.
Consistency. Everyone has a different parenting style, so you’ll need to really work on this one with each other while also learning to let some things go. Some may tend to be more laid-back with rules, schedules, chores, sports practice, schoolwork, bedtime and things like screen time, while others might prefer to dole out more discipline. Find a way to meet in the middle and share a basic set of rules. Kids get confused (and tired/cranky!) if they are allowed to stay up until midnight at one home while being in bed by 9 pm at the other.
Above all, be kind. Put your differences aside and work together with the goal of healthy, well-adjusted kids who see marriage in a positive light. Aim for a professional, business-like relationship. Christina Thero, mom of two boys, says, “I’d rather sit next to my ex to cheer my boys on in their sports than have more money and an inability to be in the same room together due to resentments. When my boys ask why we got divorced, I tell them that it’s mine and Daddy’s story, and when they are adults, we can sit down and talk about it over coffee when they have a better understanding about how relationships work.”
Always think about your shared parenting goals for the future. Every event you can attend together is laying the groundwork for future happy relations. Think ahead to your children getting married, the birth of grandchildren, etc., and about the kind of relationship you want your kids to see you having. Co-parenting is far from easy but observing some best practices will make the transition easier on your children and yourselves.