If you're recently divorced and will share parental duties with your ex-spouse, you may find yourself faced with new challenges in child-rearing. For the child's best interest, set aside negative feelings towards your ex. In addition, it's important to establish a mutually agreeable schedule with your former spouse and communicate openly.
Here are five golden rules to follow for successful co-parenting:
1. Don't Shift Negative Feelings or Resentment for Your Ex Onto Your Child
Belittling your ex-partner in front of your child or speaking negatively about your ex is counterproductive. In many cases, this behavior is self-destructive. How so? By propelling your child into the conflict, you may be forcing him or her to choose sides. Your child could end up resenting you later.
This is why it's vitally important for both parents to air personal grievances in private. Arguments and ill feelings will only add to the stress your child may already be experiencing after the transition of adjusting to a divorce.
2. Establish a Mutually Agreeable Co-Parenting Timetable
It's possible that both you and your ex will have conflicting schedules. Between work and other obligations, what works for one parent might not always be optimal for the other. Your child's best interests should be a top priority, therefore you and your ex need to work out a compromise, if necessary. If this means rearranging schedules, so be it.
Parenting dates should be arranged in advance, not on the spur of the moment. A verbal agreement of when each parent spends time with the child may not be adequate. Create a co-parenting schedule with your ex and put it in writing. To help you keep track of the timetable, write down the schedule on a dry erase board or desk calender. This will eliminate the risk of conflicts or misunderstandings over visitations.
3. Be an Informant
Sharing co-parenting duties with your ex means time spent apart from your child on visitation days. Wouldn't you want to know if your child suddenly took ill or had a minor mishap during a visit with your ex? Offer that same consideration to your former spouse. It's important for each parent to keep the other informed on a child's progress and goings-on, from the important milestones to seemingly trivial matters.
4. Establish One Set of Consistent Rules for Both Households
Each household should establish the same set of rules for the child to abide by. Whether it's an established time for chores, homework, or TV and recreation, a structured timetable will keep your child well-adjusted. If a child is not permitted to drink caffeinated soft drinks at Mom's house, the same rule should be reinforced when visiting Dad. Both parents should be on the same page when it comes to house rules and boundaries.
5. Make Time for Yourself
Divorced parents are constantly making sacrifices and setting aside time for their children. During this transition, it's equally important to set aside quality time for yourself. If you don't allow yourself the time to relax and indulge in the simple pleasures you enjoy, your parenting may suffer. You can't expect to be a good parent if you're exhausted or devoid of leisure time.
What is the best way to enjoy your "me" time? Take advantage of your child's visitation days with your ex. Use this time alone to pamper yourself. Relax in the tub or pool, crank up your favorite music or read a good book. Go out to dinner or to the movies with friends.
By devoting a day (or a few leisurely hours) to unwind and pamper yourself, you will feel refreshed and focused. You may also gain a new perspective on positive co-parenting.
Co-parenting after a divorce can be difficult, but it is possible. If you need more tips, you may want to contact a parenting therapist or experienced family lawyer.