After a divorce, you and your children’s other parent have to learn to work together to continue raising your children. Parents who learn to do this quickly help their children adjust to the divorce better and find it easier to solve problems. Parents who resist this idea may find that they spend a lot of time fighting and going to court. Of course, you can’t control the actions of the other parent—you may be forced to go to court and there are situations that make coparenting impossible. However, a lot of parents can learn to cooperate and work together for the benefit of their children. Here are 5 tips to help you make coparenting successful.
1. View the other parent as a partner. To make coparenting work, you have to create a partnership with the other parent. Negative feelings from the divorce and the circumstances that caused the divorce can stand in the way of this. To set those feelings aside, think of the other parent like you do your child’s school teacher. When you meet with a teacher, you pretty much just talk about your child and what is best for your child, not personal matters. Of course, it’s easy to do that with a teacher because you don’t have a history together. But, try to keep that mindset so that divorce issues are separate from the parenting and custody issues.
2. Focus your conversations on solutions. When things come up, like someone needs to change the custody schedule, approach the other parent with solutions. It’s easy to get caught in conversations where you just blame each other or express irritation. Take a step back from this and think about how to fix the problem or issue that has come up.
3. Don’t get baited into arguments with the other parent. The other parent may say rude things or accuse you. When this happens, take a breath (don’t fire off an immediate text) and think about how to resolve the issue underneath the complaint. For example, let’s say the other parent sends you an angry text telling you they missed the soccer game because you didn’t send the schedule. You know that you emailed the schedule at the beginning of the season. Instead of delving in an argument about how you sent the schedule and going off about how the other parent is disorganized and never knows what’s going on, you could reply something like “It looks like we need a better way to share information. What’s the best way for me to get you the schedule?” and go from there.
4. Set boundaries. If you and the other parent have a hard time focusing your conversations on your children then set up some rules and boundaries. Decide that you will only talk about certain topics and tell the other parent what you will talk about. When the other parent goes off topic, remind them that you will only discuss things about the children.
You may have to set up rules about texting, email and appropriate times to call. Think of what will work for you and tell the other parent. If you can, put some of these rules in the parenting plan. The other parent may not want to cooperate, but if you just calmly repeat your rules and boundaries it should get better with time.
5. Don’t give up. Coparenting isn’t easy and it isn’t always going to go well. You’ll have bad days when you and the other parent fight. You may have times when you regret actions or words. But, keep trying. The more you try and the longer you do it the better it will be. Think about the situation you want for you child and work towards it. Remember that you’re coparenting for your child, and know that your perseverance pays off for your child.
Ben Coltrin co-founded Custody X Change, which helps divorced parents create custody agreements and schedules.