Tip 3: Co-parent as a team
Parenting is full of decisions you’ll have to make with your ex, whether you like each another or not. Cooperating and communicating without blow-ups or bickering makes decision-making far easier on everybody. If you shoot for consistency, geniality, and teamwork with your co-parent, the details of child-rearing decisions tend to fall into place.
Aim for co-parenting consistency
It’s healthy for children to be exposed to different perspectives and to learn to be flexible, but they also need to know they’re living under the same basic set of expectations at each home. Aiming for consistency between your home and your ex’s avoids confusion for your children.
Rules. Rules don’t have to be exactly the same between two households, but if you and your ex-spouse establish generally consistent guidelines, your kids won’t have to bounce back and forth between two radically different disciplinary environments. Important lifestyle rules like homework issues, curfews, and off-limit activities should be followed in both households.
Discipline. Try to follow similar systems of consequences for broken rules, even if the infraction didn’t happen under your roof. So, if your kids have lost TV privileges while at your ex’s house, follow through with the restriction. The same can be done for rewarding good behavior.
Schedule. Where you can, aim for some consistency in your children’s schedules. Making meals, homework, and bedtimes similar can go a long way toward your child’s adjustment to having two homes.
Making important decisions as co-parents
Major decisions need to be made by both you and your ex. Being open, honest, and straightforward about important issues is crucial to both your relationship with your ex and your children’s well-being.
Medical needs. Whether you decide to designate one parent to communicate primarily with health care professionals or attend medical appointments together, keep one another in the loop.
Education. Be sure to let the school know about changes in your child’s living situation. Speak with your ex ahead of time about class schedules, extra-curricular activities, and parent-teacher conferences, and be polite to each other at school or sports events.
Financial issues. The cost of maintaining two separate households can strain your attempts to be effective co-parents. Set a realistic budget and keep accurate records for shared expenses. Be gracious if your ex provides opportunities for your children that you cannot provide.
As you co-parent, you and your ex are bound to disagree over certain issues. Keep the following in mind as you try to reach a consensus.
Respect can go a long way. Simple manners should be the foundation for co-parenting. Being considerate and respectful includes letting your ex know about school events, being flexible about your schedule when possible, and taking their opinion seriously.
Keep talking. If you disagree about something important, you will need to continue communicating. Never discuss your differences of opinions with or in front of your child. If you still can’t agree, you may need to talk to a third party, like a therapist or mediator.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. If you disagree about important issues like a medical surgery or choice of school for your child, by all means keep the discussion going. But if you want your child in bed by 7:30 and your ex says 8:00, let it go and save your energy for the bigger issues.
Compromise. Yes, you will need to come around to your ex spouse’s point of view as often as he or she comes around to yours. It may not always be your first choice, but compromise allows you both to “win” and makes both of you more likely to be flexible in the future.