Co-Parenting and Joint Custody Tips for Divorced Parents

It’s not easy to co-parent after a divorce or separation, but no matter what is going on between you and your ex, it’s important to put your children first. Putting your children first means making sure they’re safe, comfortable, and working toward acceptance of these big new life changes. To do this, you and your ex are going to have to work together to make sure your children have a secure, stable, and close relationship with both of you so they can have everything they need to thrive in a difficult situation.

What Is Co-Parenting?

The definition of co-parenting involves both parents playing a role in their children’s lives on a day-to-day basis. This is a much easier task if you and your ex decided on divorce mutually and parted amicably. Co-parenting means that you and your ex are both active in your child’s lives by making decisions together, talking to each other while doing drop-offs, and speaking to each other about your children. It can be stressful to work with your ex, but it’s possible to overcome this to develop a good working relationship. A good relationship means you and your ex will be calmer, your rules will be more consistent, and it’s easier to fix your issues so your children can thrive.

Making Co-Parenting Work

Even though your marriage is over, your family is not, so it’s important to act in your kids’ best interest. Your relationship with your ex is a completely different one now, one that is not about either of you but solely about how your kids are doing. Being in a mature co-parenting relationship means you should always put your kids’ wants and needs ahead of your own.

Benefits for Your Children

After your marriage ends, it’s more important than ever that your kids understand just how much their parents care about them. They should always feel more important than whatever it was that ended your marriage. Parents who are cooperating with one another help their children:

  • Feel secure so they adjust to new situations faster
  • Get the consistency they need by having both homes have similar rules and rewards, so kids always know what is expected from them
  • Gain new problem-solving techniques because they’re able to watch their parents work together to solve problems
  • Witness a healthy relationship that will establish a pattern of what your child will expect from their loved ones in the future
  • Be emotionally and mentally healthy. Watching good co-parenting means children are statistically less likely to have ADHD, depression, or anxiety.

Co-Parenting Tip #1: Set Hurt and Anger Aside

Successfully co-parenting involves putting your anger, hurt, or resentment aside in favor of your children’s safety and security. It will be a difficult task, especially in the early days after the How to Successfully Co-Parent After Divorce or Separation

  • Letting Go of Negative Feelings Toward Your Co-Parent
  • Co-Parenting After Separation
  • Separating Feelings From Behavior

    Hurt and anger are OK, but that doesn’t mean they have to be your primary emotions in this situation. If you need to talk about your feelings, consider calling up a friend, making an appointment with your therapist, or venting to your pet. Your kids should never be the sounding boards when you have negative feelings building up that you need to get off your chest. If you don’t want to talk to anybody about it, exercise can also be a healthy alternative that allows you to work out stress. Through it all, you should always keep your children’s best interests at heart. If you ever feel overwhelmingly angry, take a deep breath and look at a picture of your child to remember who you’re doing this for. That’s a great way to calm down.

    Don’t Put Your Children in the Middle

    Just because you put your hurt feelings aside for your children’s well-being doesn’t mean that those feelings aren’t there. In fact, you may never fully resolve your pain, but it’s important that even as the kids age, they are always kept away from any issues you and your ex have. The kids should never be used as messengers; this centers them in your arguments, when they should always be as far removed from them as possible. You also shouldn’t spout negative comments about your ex in front of your kids; again, this puts them in the center of your issues and puts pressure on them to choose between the two of you. Your children deserve a healthy relationship with both parents without outside influence.

    Co-Parenting Tip #2: Improve Communication With Your Co-Parent

    Consistent, purposeful, and peaceful communication leads to successful co-parenting. Good communication starts with a healthy mindset. If you don’t feel comfortable meeting in person, then talk on the phone or send texts or emails to one another. It doesn’t matter how the communication is done; it only matters that it’s conflict-free. If you’re worried about conflict, before you contact your ex, consider how your actions and comments could potentially hurt your child. When you’ve run through the possibilities, you should come to the conclusion that you should take the high road for the betterment of your kids. After all, they should always be the center of every discussion you and your ex have.

    Co-Parenting Communication Methods

    To keep you and your ex focused on effective and purposeful communication:

    • Commit to talking and meeting up consistently

    • Keep the conversations about the kids

    • Listen

    • Make requests, not demands

    • Practice techniques designed to help you relieve stress

    • Set a business-like tone

    • Show restraint

    Co-Parenting Tip #3: Co-Parent as a Team

    As a parent, there are plenty of decisions you and your ex will have to make even if you don’t want to. Good communication and teamwork make the process easier for everybody involved. If you aim for consistency and geniality, then the details should come more easily.

    Aim for Co-Parenting Consistency

    Kids should always learn about different perspectives. However, when it comes to their parents, they deserve to know that they’re living under similar rules and expectations at each home to maintain consistency and avoid confusion. The rules don’t have to be word-for-word exactly the same, but you should have consistent guidelines about topics such as homework, curfews, and off-limits activities. Kids should also know that they will receive similar discipline in both households, instead of one being relatively lax and the other being strict. The households should also follow similar consequences even if the incident in question happened at the other parent’s home. This is true for both good behavior and bad behavior, and it shows your kids that you and your ex are communicating and maintaining boundaries. If possible, try to aim for a consistent schedule as well. Not everything can line up perfectly, but doing homework, meal time, and bedtime at similar times can make the adjustment easier on your child.

    Making Important Decisions as Co-Parents

    You should both be open to making big decisions as a team. To do so, you need to be honest about your preferences, straight to the point, and open to hearing their side. This includes deciding which parent is in charge of talking to medical professionals, keeping both of you involved in your kids’ class schedules and after-school activities, and setting a budget you can both stick to along with a record of shared expenses.

    Co-Parenting Tip #4: Make Transitions and Visitations Easier

    Transitioning from one home to another can be difficult for children. After all, reuniting with one parent means separating from the other. This is unavoidable, but there are ways you can make the transitions easier for everybody involved.

    When Your Child Leaves

    When your kids are preparing to leave, aim to be positive and help them feel confident about the transition by:

    • Helping them to anticipate the change by reminding them in the days before the transition
    • Packing their bags in advance so nothing is forgotten
    • Encouraging them to pack familiar reminders of home to feel more comfortable
    • Always dropping off your children at the other parent’s house instead of going there to pick them up. Picking up means you could be interrupting a special moment, but dropping off means that everybody involved knows what’s happening.

    When Your Child Returns

    It’s an adjustment when they come back to your home, too. Kids can feel awkward, and the situation can even be rocky. But you can help your child feel more comfortable with the transition by:

    • Keeping things simple. Try starting your time together by reading a book or doing a quiet activity.
    • Making packing easier and more comfortable by making sure your kids have all of the basics at both houses
    • Giving your child the space they need to get used to the change
    • Putting together a special routine for when they return to your home. It’ll help your kids have a better understanding of what they can expect whenever they come to your house.

    Dealing With Visitation Refusal

    Sometimes in co-parenting situations, kids don’t want to leave one parent to see another. It’s common, but that doesn’t mean it’s not stressful, too. When this happens to you:

    • Find the cause of the issue and talk to your child about why they are refusing to see you or your ex.
    • If you can’t find the reason for refusal, that’s OK. Often, visitation refusal isn’t about you, and the situation may blow over in a few days or weeks.
    • Have a conversation with your ex to figure out the problem. This is a discussion that touches on a difficult subject, so keep in mind that you should be understanding and sensitive to their needs as well as your own.

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