Dirty Dancing: The Art of Co-parenting and 5 Tips to Success
Are you an emotionless disciplinarian, while your ex-spouse is a spineless jellyfish? Do you allow the children to eat marshmallow fluff for dinner, while your ex-spouse only allows them to eat unseasoned rice and broccoli? Will you bend at your children’s every whim, while your ex-spouse will always say no? If this sounds like the relationship between you and your ex-spouse, then it’s time to take a moment and consider the beauty, luster, and joy of the “co-parenting tango.”
Co-parenting, often referred to as joint parenting or shared parenting, is defined as raising children as a single parent when separation or divorce occurs. While co-parenting is often difficult, it is the best way to create psychologically healthy children. Co-parenting is greatly influenced by the reciprocal interactions of each parent. In other words, if you are a parent on one end of the spectrum and your ex-spouse is on the other, then, inevitably, your children may end up confused and feeling caught in the proverbial “parent trap” that you have created.
Both you and your ex-spouse need to work together in order to make the “co-parenting tango” a smooth and sultry dance. We have compiled 5 tips to help you and your ex-spouse become better dancers – err, I mean… co-parents:
- Be empathic – not pathetic.
Remember that co-parenting is not easy – so, don’t expect it to be simple. By putting yourself in both your ex-spouse’s and your children’s shoes, you will be able to make decisions not based on your emotions, but based on the feelings of others.
- Choose your battles wisely.
It’s important to have the same ground rules for the children in both your and your ex-spouse’s home. This will help keep the children from being confused and teach them that, while mommy and daddy aren’t together, they are still a united front in terms of discipline and expectations. However, don’t always expect the other parent to discipline or reward the same way that you do. Even if you were still married, you both would have different styles of parenting. That’s ok. Children can thrive on these differences, as long as the same framework is initially laid.
- No matter what happened in the past, you and your ex-spouse are co-parents.
Your ex-spouse may have cheated on you with your high school best friend, or you may now be married to your ex-spouse’s sibling. Either way, it’s important to focus on the children and the future. You need to keep your eyes forward and focused on doing what is best for the beautiful children that were birthed from your past relationship. Individual counseling can be a good investment in order to keep the lines of communication between you and your ex-spouse open. The children will benefit greatly.
- Urge your children to communicate with your ex-spouse.
While it may feel vindicating to withhold the children from your ex-spouse, it is never okay to make the children pawns in your game of divorce/parenting chess. Make sure your children write, call, text, email, or however they may contact your ex-spouse, on a regular basis. Also, remind the children of important holidays or days in your ex-spouse’s life that may warrant some extra attention from the children (think: Fathers’ Day, Mothers’ Day, birthdays, etc.).
- Don’t be afraid to seek help from some professionals.
You and your ex-spouse may be natural “co-parenters.” Awesome! However, for those of you who aren’t so lucky – or aren’t so good at dancing – co-parenting counseling might be your ticket.
Co-parenting counseling can help parents work on their communication skills by teaching parents to listen and not speak past one another. When you and your ex-spouse are listening to each other, you both are able to be better empathizers (see tip number 1).
While co-parenting counseling is great for working out communication issues, it is not a forum to release regret and/or rage toward the other parent regarding how the relationship ended. If you or your ex-spouse is unable to think past previous issues, it may be necessary to seek individual counseling.
Without further ado, strap on your character shoes and prepare for the co-parenting tango! With these 5 tips, you are well on your way to being a more successful co-parent. As always, feel free to contact our firm for more information on divorce or co-parenting – we are happy to lead you in the right direction.