When you have a child with someone, you are forever linked to them. While your relationship may not have worked out, for the child’s sake, it’s important to learn how to successfully co-parent together. Below are some tips for how to co-parent for the sake of the person most important: the child.
Be open with communication. Provide accurate, complete, and timely information to the other parent when it comes to your children. Don’t keep the other parent in the dark. It’s important your communication about the children is free and open. Consider using a communication tool like www.talkingparents.com to help facilitate that communication.
Practice the Golden Rule. Lead by example. Treat the other parent the way you want to be treated. Give the other parent the information you want to receive. Show up on time if you’d like the other parent to do the same.
Encourage a relationship with the other parent. It’s important for children to have a relationship with both parents. Just because your relationship with your co-parent did not work out doesn’t mean your child’s relationship with their other parent should have to suffer too. It takes a concerned and wise parent to encourage contact between the child and the other parent. Personal bitterness has to be set aside and activities with both parents should be encouraged.
Encourage the discussion of feelings. The open expression of feelings tends to create a healthier environment. But freedom of speech does not mean freedom to insult or punish. Anger should be talked about, not acted out. This goes for both the parents and the children.
Consider the other parent’s point of view. Listen to what the other parent has to say, no matter how ridiculous it sounds, and take a breath. Ask yourself if there is some truth to their concern. Sometimes taking a step back can help you see more clearly. Remember, your co-parent’s most important concern is likely the same as yours: your children. Remember in that sense, you’re both on the same team.
Be flexible. Be willing to compromise some of your demands and, if necessary, negotiate for others. Do not surrender all your rights, but choose your battles carefully. Don’t make a point just for the principle of it or to rub it in the co-parent’s face. Conflicts with your co-parent will always affect your children. They feel the tension and that will interfere with the quality of the visits.
Don’t bad-mouth the other parent. Children don’t want to hear bad things about either of their parents, and they especially do not want to take sides. No purpose is served in criticizing the other parent to your children.
Don’t use your children as spies. Children should be given the freedom to enjoy each parent without hindrance or fear of being cross-examined. Children become angry when asked to spy and can easily withdraw from both parents.
Don’t use your children to carry messages. There is usually a period of time following separation or divorce when one parent is afraid to encounter the other, either for fear of letting out feelings of bitterness or for fear of what the other parent will do or say. Under these conditions, a parent may become cowardly and hide behind the children. “Tell your father he hasn’t sent the check yet,” or “Ask your mother if you can go fishing with me next week.” These messages place your child in an uncomfortable position. The child will usually come to resent both parents for having to carry messages. To avoid alienating your children, do your own dirty work! Be courageous and assertive. Speak directly to your co-parent.
Don’t use your children to get back at the other parent. Purposefully being late to drop the children off to get back at your co-parent is not appropriate or healthy. Your children will pick up on this and it will negatively affect them. Speak to your co-parent in private about concerns you may have. Do not use your children as pawns. They deserve better than that.
If you’d like to learn more about parenting plans and schedules in Colorado, schedule a free consultation today. I offer flat fee rates for custody cases, drafting of parenting plans, or review of an existing plan.
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Lauren Lester is an affordable family law, estate planning, and probate lawyer licensed in Colorado.