Parenting is a rollercoaster ride. There are ups and downs, and you don’t always know when the next twist or turn is coming. Sound challenging? Now try and navigate these difficulties with your ex-spouse and you’ve got a potential recipe for disaster.
No matter how long you’ve been separated, co-parenting is usually a struggle. Conflicting schedules, differences of opinion, and past resentments lingering from your divorce may be getting in the way of you being the best parents possible.
But you don’t have to let co-parenting be a negative experience for you or your children. You can choose to be a peace provoker — and promote a happy family life by following these eight parenting goals for the new year.
1. Practice Being Polite
Speaking kindly to your spouse is probably one of the last things you want to do, but remember that co-parenting is all about putting what’s best for your children ahead of your own needs. One of the best goals you can make this new year is to practice being polite to one another.
Make small talk, being brief but friendly. Kill ’em with kindness! This gesture might make your life as co-parents a whole lot easier.
2. Communicate Regularly
While co-parenting isn’t easy, communication is the key to more successful relationships — be it with your children, spouse, or even your ex. Feeling like you have to open up or talk about serious business with someone who betrayed you might feel like a cruel punishment. But, always remember to try and act with your children’s best interests in mind — and it is in your child’s best interest to have both parents up-to-date about the goings-on in their lives.
When you communicate with your ex, do so directly. Try your best not to use the children as a mediator, as this would not be fair for them. If talking in person is too tough, try civil texts to keep each other in the loop.
3. Get on the Same Page
Studies show that children function better in several aspects of their lives (academically, socially, mentally) when their parents work at their relationship. But just because you’re not married anymore doesn’t mean you can’t take care of your relationship as co-parents.
So try to get on the same page when it comes to parenting. Your children grow up so much more well-adjusted when their parents remain partners in child-rearing.
For example, if your child has already asked their mother to go to a sleepover and she has deemed it inappropriate, don’t overwrite her decision just to try and be the “cool parent.” Instead, discuss parenting decisions together as you would if you were still a couple.
4. Commit to Positive Speech
Did your ex break your heart? Cheat on you? Make your life miserable? These are all perfectly reasonable explanations for the not-so-fuzzy-feelings you have for them. But it is no reason for you to project your feelings for your spouse onto your children.
Make it your co-parenting goal this year to ditch the trash-talk in front of your children and only speak respectfully about their other parent. This is a major step that contributes to a happier family life.
5. Pick Your Battles
As hard as you try to be parents, you and your ex are not always going to agree on the best way to handle certain situations with your kids. Just remember that while fighting may have been common in your married life, this should not be the case for your life as co-parents.
You may need to learn to let things go. As you likely learned while married, you are likely not always going to have the same parenting styles. So choose your battles wisely and be careful about what you do and do not make a big deal out of. This will make it a whole lot easier for your children, your ex, and the stress levels of all involved.
6. Be Flexible
When you separate from your child’s mother or father, it can be difficult to align your schedules. That is why flexibility should play a major role in your parenting goals this year.
As long as it is safe to do so, be flexible with your schedule. For example, perhaps you have a court-ordered parenting schedule, but your child’s father wants to take them to an amusement park on a day that isn’t his. Will you let them go?
Spite or jealousy may encourage you to say no, but ask yourself this: Will the children have fun and will the experience be a healthy bonding opportunity? If the answer is yes, be flexible and open with your schedule and consider letting them go. Not only will your children appreciate the gesture, but these types of concessions will foster healthy co-parenting relations with your ex.
7. Respect Family Time
Jealousy has a tendency to rear its ugly head with divorced couples, especially when it comes to the children. This may make it hard to respect the alone-time your kids are sharing with your ex.
Make it your goal this year to let your kids enjoy the private time they spend with their other parent. This means not inundating them with texts or phone calls or putting a damper on their visit.
Your ex-partner will appreciate your respect and, hopefully, will give it back in return.
8. Share Accomplishments
The nature of co-parenting means that you aren’t always going to be there for the exciting moments in your child’s life — and the same goes for your ex. This can be hard to accept, so why not make things easier for each other? One great co-parenting goal that contributes to a happy family life is to share your children’s accomplishments with your spouse.
Even if you aren’t on the best of terms, you can still e-mail or text your ex photos of your child’s amazing report card, fun sleepover, or other accomplishments. Saying something like, “Our little one had an exciting day today and I thought you would love to see some photos. Take care!” is a great way to keep your ex involved in their child’s life.
Co-parenting is never easy. For the coming new year, make it your goal to have the smoothest co-parenting experience possible. Pick your battles wisely, strive to get on the same page about your children, and be flexible with your schedule.
These tips will contribute to a happy family life — with or without your ex.
About the Author: Rachael Pace is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples. Her mission is to provide inspiration, support, and empowerment to everyone on their journey to a great marriage. She is a featured writer for Marriage.com who supports healthy, happy marriages.