5 Ways to Co-Parent with Your Ex-Spouse
Mighty Mommy shares five important considerations, as backed by the experts, to keep in mind when you co-parent with your ex-spouse.
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In a recent episode, I shared that I would be doing a 4-part series on divorce. I’ve been divorced for 5 years now and wanted to share what has worked for me, my ex-husband, and our 8 kids during this time. While divorce is not easy, time does help heal, and when your focus is putting your kids first, it is absolutely possible to maintain a healthy, happy family relationship.
My first episode in this series was 5 Expert-Approved Ways to Talk to Your Kids About Divorce. After 26 years of marriage, and 8 kids, we came to the painful decision that we had grown apart. With divorce, our biggest concern was breaking the news to our children in a considerate and communicative manner.
Once our family had adjusted to the fact that we would be divorcing, my ex-husband and I made a pact that although we would no longer be a couple, we were still going to be a parenting team. This was extremely important to both of us, and although we had to navigate the emotionally draining journey of divorce, our motto was “kids first.”
The first step in your co-parenting journey is to make a commitment to your children, giving assurance that you will learn how to co-parent, are open to change, receptive to feedback, and will do everything possible to make this work. Mighty Mommy shares five important considerations, as backed by the experts, to keep in mind when you co-parent with your ex-spouse.
#1: Educate Yourself About Co-Parenting Options
Our parenting journey has included infertility, adoption, autism, and significant speech/developmental delays with three of our children in addition to meeting a host of other parenting milestones with all 8 of our kids. While we felt confident in our parenting skills, we didn’t have any experience as co-parents so we felt our first step was to become educated with as much knowledge as possible on the topic.
Through a wonderful website and organization called Coparentingguide.org, we found a definition of co-parenting that we both loved: “Co-parenting is when parents set their differences aside and work together as a team to raise a child after their divorce or separation. It includes sharing parental responsibilities and making joint decisions that affect the emotional and developmental needs of a child in everyday life.”
This definition became the foundation of our co-parenting partnership. In addition, we began to look for online articles, books and other resources, DVDs, and community-based educational programs and support networks that we could learn from.
Just as important was our decision to stay away from negative sources and people that were complete doom and gloom about divorce. Everyone’s divorce is different and although ours was overall very amicable, we still had our fair share of rough patches to work through.
Some of my favorite co-parenting resources are:
Two Homes by Claire Masurel (Great for younger children)
Co-Parenting Works!: Helping Your Children Thrive after Divorce by Tammy G Daughtry
Sharekids.com: A website that offers helpful planning and communication tools for families raising kids in two homes.
Time To Put Kids First is "a nonprofit organization of parents, friends and family members working for children’s rights, parental equality and restoring the value of parent-child and family relationship.” This is truly one of Mighty Mommy’s favorite resources.
#2: Support the Other Parent's Role and Relationships
I think this is one of the most crucial factors in co-parenting—supporting your ex’s role in your kid’s lives. The idea is to create a fair and balanced arrangement that will maximize the time that your children can spend with each of you. You can support each other as parents by sticking to the co-parenting schedule; remaining flexible in accommodating each other wherever possible; informing the other parent of special events, school functions or extracurricular activities; and learning to control your fluctuating emotions for the sake of your kids.
Darlene Weyburne, CSW, writes about the importance of supporting your ex’s parenting role on the website Divorcemagazine.com. “Support your children in loving and building a relationship with the other parent. Never start a sentence with "If your father/mother really loved you..." Don't allow your feelings of being betrayed to interfere with your support of your children's need to love and be loved by your former partner."
Because my ex-husband travels quite a bit for work, we agreed not to have a set visitation schedule because he would miss out on too much time with them. Our situation is a bit more laid back than most divorces because of this. My ex sends me his work/travel schedule every Sunday for the upcoming week to ten days, and we use this to plug in quality time for him and the kids. This allows me to plan down time for myself as well. In addition, we still try to have dinner together as a family several times a month. This keeps some semblance of tradition alive amongst all of us, despite the divorce.