Starting a family is a rewarding part of life, but parenting can be challenging on a good day. Now throw in trying to co-parent with your ex and you’re in for a roller coaster ride.
Single parent families are no longer a shocking fact of life. Statistics show that as of 2018, 16.4 million children were living in single-parent households in the United States, 1.64 million in Canada and an estimated 2.3 billion children worldwide.
Don’t let your relationship with your ex, or lack thereof, make parenting more challenging than it has to be. By coming together as parents, you’ll be able to do what’s best for your children and each other. Here are 10 tips for reducing co-parenting stress.
1. Learn to communicate with your ex.
Your ex is probably the last person you want to talk to, but you must be able to communicate for the sake of your children.
If you can’t find the strength to communicate in person or over the phone, find an option that works for you. Texting and emailing are great ways to get your point across. They also allow you time to think about what you want to say, or how you want to reply to your ex so that you are not overly emotional in your response.
2. Make time for your kids.
You may have a lot going on in your life right now, but don’t let it interfere with the quality time you get to spend with your kids. Make weekly “dates” with your kids where you can go out and strengthen your parent-child bond. Some great ideas for this include going out for ice cream, playing a sport together, heading to a local museum, or having a family game night.
3. Make your ex your “business partner.”
One way to take the stress out of co-parenting is by viewing your ex as your business partner. You do not have to be involved in their personal life at all. Unless your children are being put in a dangerous situation, it should not matter to you who your ex is dating or how they are choosing to spend their time with your kids.
Instead, view your interactions as a business transaction. Be cordial and use professional tones. Do not become overly involved with your ex.
4. Find a support group.
Don’t let single parenting be a point of pride for you and prevent you from asking for help. Especially during the beginning transition period after your separation, friends and family can be invaluable for babysitting and supporting you emotionally.
Research proves that support from loved ones can lower psychological distress significantly during trying times. Do not shut yourself off from getting help from those around you.
5. Keep track of your finances.
When you go through a divorce, your child-related finances become an absolute mess. There are summer camps, school clothes, yearly pictures and extracurricular activities to pay for with your children. Do yourself and your ex a favor by keeping detailed records of child-related costs. Sharing this with your ex will help keep your shared child-finances clear and concise.
6. Inform your kid’s teachers.
The longer you are divorced, the more complicated your family tree has likely become. There is you and your ex, possibly new relationships, marriages and children. While you and your ex have your families perfectly mapped out, your child’s teacher may not be as crystal clear on how “X” is related to “Y.”
Do your best to fill your children’s instructors in on how your family tree is growing and evolving. When these authority figures understand your child’s family dynamic, it will prevent potentially awkward situations from happening.
7. Stop viewing each other as the enemy.
Whatever happened to sour your relationship is between you and your ex, not your children. In order to successfully co-parent with your ex, you have to stop viewing them as your personal nemesis. You may not have worked as a romantic couple, but you must be able to work as partners and co-parents.
Studies show that children learn from observing those closest to them. You set a good example for your children when you display patience, cooperation and respect for your ex.
8. Get on the same page about rules.
Children benefit when they have rules and routines. This teaches them responsibilities and time management skills. It is in your child’s best interest to ensure both households have the same curfews, dietary restrictions, bedtimes, and school routines. This will create a much-needed structure in your child’s life.
9. Stop feeling guilty.
Do you live with parent guilt? Many parents do.
You likely wish that your children could have the benefit of living with their happily married parents. You wish you didn’t have to work so much, you wish you could spend more time with your kids, you wish you could give them the world!
But guilting and punishing yourself over circumstances you cannot change will not benefit anyone.
10. Be flexible.
When it comes to parenting, flexibility is going to be a lifesaver. It takes flexibility to raise teenagers, to adjust curfews and to give reasonable expectations to your children. But you will also benefit from being flexible with your ex.
As your child gets older, it may not make you feel good if they request to spend certain holidays or weekends with their other parent, but do your best to accept it and use your time without your kids to pursue your own hobbies and happiness.
Remember, your ex does not have to be your best friend, but they do have to be your partner in raising children. Learn to communicate with your ex, get on the same page about how to raise your children, and make quality time with your kids a priority.
By following these co-parenting tips, you’ll make your road as separated parents much easier to travel.
Do you co-parent? Share your tips in the comments.