You would be amazed at how basic parenting practices people typically follow as “common sense” are the same practices many parents don’t even consider, especially when a relationship between the parents dissolves.
All too often, a parent will operate out of resentment and anger toward the other parent, justifying themselves in various ways and either not realizing the detriment to the children or simply placing precedence on their own interests over the importance of the emotional and mental well-being of the child/children.
Parenting is tough. As someone who was married at 18 and has never known the experience of parenting alone, I can definitely appreciate the struggles of a single mother or father. I definitely understand the tension between who parents who are no longer together. It’s easy to start conflicts for the sake of taking your frustration out on the other parent or making sure they aren’t comfortable since you aren’t comfortable. Not all relationships work out, but when a child is born into it every effort should be exhausted in order to allow that child (or children) to maintain healthy relationships with both parents and extended family, including existing and subsequent siblings.
Tips To Ensure Ease in Co-Parenting:
- Be aware that you cannot change the other parent.
ALWAYS do your personal best to honestly evaluate your own actions. If you’re unsure as to whether you are acting in the best interest of your child, as a trusted friend or family member. Give them unskewed details about the situation (unskewed = don’t try to present your argument in a one-sided perspective that paints your ex as the bad guy) then listen to their feedback without getting offended. Also, think about the situation from a third-party perspective. If someone else presented this situation to you, what would you say about them?
- Consider setting aside whatever differences you have with your child’s other parent.
Nothing is worse than growing up feeling like you have to choose between your parents… except being in that situation and not even having a choice. Most children feel obligated to side with their custodial parent because that is the one who takes physical care of the a majority of the time. It’s not fair to a child to have to feel guilty for loving both of their parents and it’s certainly not fair for a child to have to hide or deny that love.
- Work toward developing a Parenting Plan together.
Figure out a workable way to incorporate both sides of your child’s family into their life. Even parents who live in different states can easily do this if both honestly put in a little effort to make it go smoothly. Develop a schedule that works for both families for visits, contact (phone, Skype, email, instant messages, etc), and other aspects of the child’s life that both parents need to be involved in. Stick to it and fulfill your commitment no matter what! Most importantly, never shut down lines of communication between a child and a parent — there should be an open-access policy at all times!
- Don’t degrade the other parent or reference them negatively to your child.
This is the biggest mistake most parents make. They get aggravated when things don’t work out the way they believe they should and in their frustration, they spout off various things about the other parent either to or in the company of the child… even if what you’re saying is true, the child’s ears are no place for your venting sessions about their father or mother. Furthermore, once your child is old enough and mature enough to understand what’s going on, he or she will resent you for manipulating such vulnerable emotions and will only have an even stronger desire to get to know the other parent.
- Don’t lose your temper when the other parent causes conflict.
Your children will remember how each of you behave. If something is said to frustrate you, have a pre-planned method of diffusing/neutralizing the situation. Most of the time, petty jabs or offensive/passive-aggressive remarks are only said to ruin your day… don’t lend those words any power by reacting to them. Also take note that if you allow the custodial parent to make you stop trying to see your child/children in order to avoid having to deal with that parent, your child will not have the benefit of both parents which makes a huge difference in his or her life.
The Parent’s Promise
(developed by Shannon Bonkrude, M.S.)
For the greatest good of my child ____________________________ we hereby agree that:
- I will not speak negatively about my child’s other parent to my child.
- I will not say to my child “that (insert negative behavior or characteristic) is just like your father/mother.”
- I agree to not put my child in the middle of issues with their other parent (especially child support).
- I agree to not use my child as a pawn to get back at their other parent.
- I agree that if my child’s parent has a new relationship that I will not speak negatively of this other person to my child.
- I will not expect my child to support my emotional health.
- I will do my best to fully support my child during this process.
- I will allow my child to be a child during this time.
- I will seek outside professional counseling if I need to speak with someone about this situation or if I am having difficulty maintaining this agreement.
- I agree that if I do not uphold the above promises that I personally am not acting in the best interest of my child’s physical and emotional health.
- I will periodically ask my child how they are doing.
- I will speak with my child’s coach/counselor once a month to gain further insight.
By agreeing to the Parent’s Promise I am accepting responsibility as a parent to provide the best environment possible for my child. In upholding these promises, I am also acknowledging to my child that they have no fault in this decision that was made by their parents. I am fully committed to the best interest of my child’s emotional and physical health during this time and to their future growth and development.
Honestly and with much love, I commit to this for my child.
Signed, ___________________________ (MOTHER)
Signed, ___________________________ (FATHER)