True Parent 3
Co-parenting is like firing a business partner, but still needing to work with them. You both love the business (ahem, child) you created, while being so over loving one another. Throw in visitation schedules, child support, the original reasons that led to the relationship’s downfall, and you’ve got yourself one murky, confusing, sometimes irritating hell of a situation to maneuver.
It’s not hopeless. However, it does take some intentionality, some deep breathing, and some active planning from both parties. [Quick side note: If there was violence or coercion within the family unit, I strongly urge you to lean on community resources and/or counselors to best support your journey of co-parenting, as it will likely look different (though still hopeful!) for your family.]
Learn to communicate. It’s not fair for your child to be in the middle. If this isn’t doable, use a respected third party adult to support communication when necessary. Oregon offers free mediation services for those going through separation/divorce/custody, so USE THIS RESOURCE.
Learn to respect the other parent, and know it may be hard to do. Your ex will likely have different ways of doing things. Expecting differences, and respecting those differences (when you can), will ease the angst you’ll feel in the long run.
Choose your battles. There will be plenty to fight over and be annoyed with; decide what you want to stand firm about, and let the rest fall off your back—otherwise, you’ll be fighting for 18 years straight.
Be flexible and give grace. This one’s hard; we all mess up. Life is bound to happen. When you’re able, extend grace (e.g. child support will be 48 hours late; the other parent has to work during their “on” weekend and needs help with child care, etc.).
Stay off Facebook. You don’t need to be BFFs with your ex, but sometimes extra information makes this even harder. (“You went to the beach?? I thought you didn’t have enough for daycare expenses this week?”). Also, don’t air your co-parenting laundry online (that’s just a no-no).
Set rules both agree to abide by. When do the kids get introduced to a new significant other? What are rules both households can maintain?
Give your kiddos a break. Be consistent and present for them, even when it’s hard to do. Transitioning between homes, especially when the homes are vastly different, is hard and confusing for little ones. Take it easy on them on transition days, and provide lots of cuddles and love.
Ask for help when you need it. Breathe. You’ve got this!
Vanessa Washington is a licensed therapist at Bridge City Counseling (bridgecitycounseling.com) who works with teens, adults, and other individuals while integrating a cultural, racial, and ethnic lens into her work.