If you are finding co-parenting to be difficult, you are not alone. Many parents find co-parenting challenging to navigate. However, keeping the child’s well-being at the forefront of any co-parenting decision will offer the highest likelihood that you and your child will eventually learn to thrive.
Many co-parenting articles point to the fundamentals: open communication, routines, avoiding trash-talking the former spouse, not indulging your child because you feel guilty, etc. We’ll assume that you’ve covered those essential points in other articles.
Instead, we’ll focus on three less well-publicized – yet simple – tricks for taking your co-parenting to the next level.
1. Download a Co-parenting App
Yes, there’s an app for everything these days and co-parenting is no exception. Apps can make a big difference in the quality and efficiency of your co-parenting experience, just like your favorite map app makes a big difference in the quality and efficiency of your driving experience.
Remember when driving directions were one of the top sources of marital conflict? It’s been a while. A co-parenting app can replace and surpass previous types of co-parenting communication. They can simplify or remove the debate similar to how a GPS system can replace the old-fashioned arguments in the car about driving directions.
An app can make it easy to share your child’s calendar, shared expenses, vaccine records, and the address of your child’s best friend. Need your child’s passport number? Shoe size? Classroom number? Swimming schedule? Need a place to record shared expenses? Medical records and appointments? One app even has a built-in emotion checker, a sort-of spell check that flags emotive language that could be interpreted as inflammatory by your ex-spouse.
Co-parenting apps make it possible to communicate effectively with your ex with or without face-to-face contact. Whether you and your ex are happy to exchange information on the phone or whether you want to avoid verbal or face-to-face exchanges altogether. Either way, an app will improve your co-parenting success.
A quick internet search will supply several highly-recommended apps for co-parenting, including several designed by divorced parents. Each app has a slightly different focus, so read a description of each before signing up for a free trial.
2. Be Boring Sometimes
Don’t be boring all the time. Don’t ignore your children when it’s your turn to spend time with them or shuffle them around to school or babysitters. But, on the other hand, don’t be the so-called ‘Disney Dad’ or the ‘Disney Mom.’
Don’t be an unattached parent who feels the need to buy your child’s love. It’s terrific to wow your children with treats and special activities once in a while. But, if you do this every time you see your child, you may be hurting your relationship.
Children need to do ordinary things with their less-seen parent for a healthy long-term relationship. It’s about being you – the real you – with your child, so there’s a real person for them to get to know. Be the best version of yourself, not the cartoon version.
3. Leave the Divorce Judge Out
“I wish I didn’t have to let you go, but the judge ordered it. I’ll get in big trouble if I don’t make you go to Daddy’s.”
“I know you don’t want to go to Mom’s for the weekend, but you know the divorce lawyer wrote it into the divorce. There’s absolutely nothing I can do.”
While it’s important for your children, even young children, to understand the “rules” of your divorce decree, using the divorce decree as the reason you are sending them to your ex-spouse will undermine your child’s sense of autonomy. Depression and anger are two common reactions to feeling trapped, and you want to give your child every opportunity to steer clear of these harmful emotions.
Blaming the system will make your child feel un-empowered and ‘acted upon.’ Instead, focus on empowering your child by brainstorming ways to improve the situation, identifying emotions by name, and problem-solving.
What options do you have if the judge ordered your child to spend time on a Zoom call with their less-seen parent, and neither you nor your child wants to engage? Hearing your child complain about the Zoom appointment with your ex-spouse could feel like music to your ears, but it’s not in your child’s best interest for you to nurture such feelings.
So don’t say, “It’s terrible, isn’t it? I wish that divorce judge hadn’t ordered it.”
Instead, say, “You’re not the only one who finds videoconferencing uncomfortable. What do you dislike about your Zoom appointments in particular? There might be some changes we could make….”
Research has shown that kids thrive when they are aware of the good qualities of each parent. So anything that you can do to help your child notice the commitment and caring of your ex-spouse will contribute to your child’s well-being.
Co-parenting is not easy, but it’s worth the benefits to your child.
Co-parenting is a challenging, high-stakes endeavor, and it usually gets easier with time. Keeping an eye on the long-term goal – the well-being of your child or children – can help you make it through the difficult times here and now. Finding a good co-parenting app, relaxing into some downtime with your kids, and avoiding the “judge-makes-me-do-it” card will help you create a successful co-parenting relationship.