Here are 7 coparenting tips so you can both win.
Easter is one of the toughest times to coparent but it doesn’t have to be awful and it doesn’t have to be win or lose.
Easter and Christmas are some of the hardest times to coparent. The kids are super excited and both parents have time off and want to spend it with them. But in the end the kids can only be in one place at one time which means sacrifice, cooperation and negotiation with your ex, which may feel a little like you are drinking poison. But if you can establish and apply these 7 coparenting tips you can both win.
There is little doubt that coparenting is hard, probably one of the hardest things you will ever try to do. Any break down of a relationship is loaded with emotions and hurt feelings and trying to then constructively raise your children together requires the patience of a saint. And friends and family often don’t help with lots of free advice about how much time and access your are getting – or giving – compared to how much they think you should be.
But coparenting is a fact of life. The Family Court starts with a presumption of shared access and equal time for both parents and isn’t easily swayed from that. So you will only ever be semi-separated if you have children together because you will always have a connection to your ex and you will always have to deal with them.
In your quest to make the co in coparenting be about cooperation and not conflict here are 7 tips to help you find a little coparenting peace.
1: Talk it out.
On of the keys to successful coparenting is having a plan and a clear set of rules right from the start. Most people who find themselves coparenting make it up as they go along which is fine until it isn’t. As time goes on little slights and annoyances fester until someone loses it and the whole deal is off.
Constructive negotiation with your ex, easier said than done especially if you haven’t been separated for that long.
If you find it hard to negotiate – or even talk to your ex – mediation is a great way to talk it out with a little guidance. An experienced mediator will guide you through, keeping the conversation civil and making sure your agreements are fair and practical. And your mediator will produce a written agreement that you both sign so it can be referenced in the future if anyone feels they aren’t getting what they deserve.
2: Live near to each other.
The most effective coparenting usually involves parents that live close to each other. Although it is possible to make coparenting work if you have to live far apart, it will make everything a little harder. Your kids can only attend one school which defines their friend groups and activities and defines where they will want to spend most of their time. Whichever parent doesn’t live near to school will find themselves having to drive back and forth or find a whole new set of friends and activities – which the kids may not actually like that much. We usually urge coparents to reside as close as possible to the kids social orbit and have found over the years this works best.
3: Scheduling, scheduling, scheduling.
Schedules should be designed to meet the needs of all family members – including your ex. The pace of our lives is getting quicker all the time and scheduling for that is hard enough when you share a house but when two houses are factored in you could find you need a social secretary to keep track of it all!
But as tricky as that scheduling may be it is crucial as coparents you find a way for the kids to spend time with both of you while also ensuring they have stability and routine. Cooperation and understanding around scheduling with your ex will make your life easier and your kids happier, and happier kids are easier kids.
It is also important to remember yourself in this equation. Post separation you are working on building a new life so it is important to give yourself some physical and mental space and a bit of time without the kids is fundamental.
So the simple rule is – the kids come first, but try to help each other out where you can.
4: Vive la difference.
It would be unusual for two parents to have exactly the same parenting style. We all have legitimate differences around issues of bedtimes, food, TV, discipline and risk tolerance.
Coparenting requires that each parent resist the temptation to criticise the other parent unless there is a serious danger to the child. In our experience it is very rare that criticism of an ex achieves anything except argument and counter criticism.
It is important to remember children are going through a lot of emotion and upheaval as well and they need their parents to be at peace, so biting one’s tongue is vitally important to coparenting.
5: Swipe right not left.
On this the statistics don’t lie, most divorcing people remarry.
Sooner or later you will have to deal with an ex’s new partner and how you do that goes a long way to how your kids deal with your ex’s new partner and that goes a long way to how your relationship with your ex is.
Each of you should encourage your children to like and respect the new partner. If children are not comfortable in each home, co-parenting fails. If children are encouraged to challenge the new stepparent co-parenting also fails. And if coparenting fails arguments and conflict will surely follow.
Although it may be natural to feel pangs of jealousy about the new partner of your former spouse or to even dislike their new partner, those feelings must be managed and not shared with the children.
6: Technology is your friend.
Direct communication with your ex can be tricky.
Texts and emails can be misunderstood, intentions can be misread and a coparenting relationship which has been good can quickly descend into war. We see it all the time.
There are however lots of apps that are specifically designed for coparents to communicate and there are some really good ones that are free.
Features include shared calendars, child related expenses, messaging, contacts (such as the kids GP, Dentist, Teacher, Coaches), kids appointments and in some of the apps kids over 13 can participate as well. And how much do kids love to be given a little control.
Apps worth having a look at are Our Family Wizard, Coparently, 2Houses, WeParent and Cozi.
7: Change is good
Separation involves continual change. New residences, new jobs, new mates, new partners, new schools and new schedules are just a few of the things you will have to deal with.
And just as your parenting needs to change as children grow up your coparenting will also need to change, because what works for a toddler certainly wont cut it with a teenager.
To coparent successfully you need to adapt and be flexible and to do that you need to be able to communicate with your ex. If you have coparenting rules set in stone and are unwilling to negotiate, your relationship will quickly descend in to conflict. Adapting to change is crucial to coparenting and is heavily influenced by the ability of the parents to resolve occasional conflicts effectively and without arguing.
A great way to manage those changes is to have a mediation clause in your separation agreement so you can talk it out with a mediator when disputes arise that you cannot easily resolve between yourselves.
Mediation often provides the difference between long term success and a failed co-parenting arrangement.
Susan Hewitt is the Principal at Bright Side Family Law, a non-litigious family law and mediation practice. Susan has worked as a lawyer and journalist for almost 30 years. She is an accredited collaborative lawyer and qualified Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner who is committed to helping families through their relationship breakdown in an honest, cooperative and respectful manner.
If you are facing a family law or parenting matter please call, message or email us at BrightSide.