Co-parenting is hard. Heartbreak, disappointment, deception and other reasons for the breakdown of the romantic relationship recede into the background for the child’s sake as both parents are forced to put their baby’s wellbeing first.
Child psychologist Celeste Janse van Vuuren says in order to make co-parenting work, both parents need to put aside their personal differences and the focus should be on the child’s rights.
Child development experts have identified the most common challenges faced by couples who opt to co-parent, and have developed a few guidelines to help you navigate any co-parenting potholes.
In an ideal world, couples have open discussions about their finances and how their child fits in. But, for co-parents, this is a sensitive issue that can pose problems if one of the parties defaults on maintenance payments or other arrangements. In order to avoid fights, experts say that as a co-parent, you need to be honest and open about your financial abilities – discuss how much each of you will contribute monthly towards your child’s upkeep. You’re equally responsible for your child. If you’re not financially able to contribute your share, communicate this.
Many co-parents fail to address the issues they may have, and regular communication is vital, say experts. Before you communicate with your ex, ask yourself how your talk will affect your child, and resolve to conduct yourself with dignity. Make your child the focal point of every discussion you have with your ex-partner.
Talking badly about the other parent
Your aim when speaking negatively about your child’s other parent is to change her perspective, feelings or opinions regarding the other parent. When you have a problem, take it directly to your ex and not to your children. Don’t use your child as a messenger as this puts her in the centre of your conflict. If you put down the other parent, this will cause unnecessary tension and your child will end up questioning if they can trust you and your opinions – or themselves. Try, by all means, to maintain a healthy relationship with your ex for their sake. Your child has the right to a relationship with her other parent that is free of negative influence.
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Sometimes, when a relationship ends, people struggle to move on. Feelings of rejection and betrayal dictate their behaviour towards their former lovers. The experts advise seeking healing before embarking on a co-parenting arrangement with your ex. That way, you won’t allow your hurt and resentment to influence your decisions and actions. You also have to be cognisant of your child’s best interests, because whatever energy you’re projecting will affect them, too. If you’re still going through heartbreak, talk to a friend, relative or professional.
Change, in any form, is disruptive in a child’s life. So coping with having two different households and sometimes two different families can be daunting. In these situations, co-parents need to adopt a “we” attitude so everyone is on the same page. It needs to be clear to your kids that they’re living under the same basic set of expectations at each home. Your approach can be different, but you should establish the same consistent guidelines. This will make it easier on your kids when they bounce back and forth between their two homes. When you discipline them, you should also try to follow similar systems.
Changing home environments, suburbs, provinces or countries causes instability in the lives of your children. Relocation should be undertaken only after careful consideration and extensive discussions. The wellbeing of your children and how these changes will affect them should be the driving factor.
The actual move from one household to another, whether it happens every few days or on certain weekends, can be a hard time for children. Always remember that it’s important for your children to spend as much time as they possibly can with the other parent. Try to be helpful and make it as pleasant for your kids and your ex as possible.
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