Co-parenting. It’s a murky world filled with more shades of grey than you ever knew existed. It is chock-full of boundary lines and unspoken rules you won’t even know are there until you have crossed or broken them. Everyone wants a healthy and easy co-parenting situation, but what if it’s just not happening? What if your co-parenting mimics an episode of Maury instead of Full House?
This steady dysfunction could be for many reasons: messy break-ups, financial disagreements, or simply not being too fond of who you procreated with. Whatever the reason may be, it’s just not working. You’ve sat down and racked your brain as to why other families have it together on social media, they cheer together at football games, and have the routine drop-offs down to a science. However, things on your end just don’t run as smoothly.
Bear with me here, you may not want to hear this but you could be the problem.
Before you light the torches and send for the lynching mob, keep an open mind. Co-parenting can dig up many negative feelings that would be better off left in the dust. However, each drop-off or forced chat with your ex can make it a little harder than you expected; leading to some mistakes on your end too.
I co-parent with my son’s father as well as my step-daughter's mother. I have learned many lessons from these two completely different co-parenting scenarios. Some days it honestly wasn’t my fault a fight broke out, other days, I had to tuck my tail between my legs and dive into a carton of mint chocolate chip to mask my embarrassing pride and insecurities.
This list isn’t designed to attack anyone; no one is the bad guy here. Co-parenting is hard. Period. This list doesn’t cover abusive or emotionally unstable co-parenting situations It aids in helping what would otherwise be a “healthy” situation that just may need some tweaking here and there.
Yeah, I get it. Talking with your ex is the last thing most people want to do. However, dodging this person forever isn’t an option when there are kids involved. The mundane “How do you do?” conversation can be left out completely. However, purposely ignoring texts about the kids, because you don’t feel like talking to your ex is not okay.
As a co-parenting team, you need to be able to be on the same page and a quick text back confirming a time or answering a quick question can go a long way. If you dodge answering simple questions such as: “Hey can you send her sneakers back”, “What time was his karate class this week?”, “Are you okay with switching Tuesday and Thursday?” then you’re the problem. Sure, these are small trivial issues, but having the information in a timely manner is very helpful if you are trying to schedule or plan things on your end.
Text back, even if it’s just a thumbs-up emoji.
One of the biggest issues I see with co-parenting is the scheduling, but what makes it even harder is when one party makes a decision that will affect your rock-solid schedule (which probably cost thousands of dollars in court to nail down) without consulting the other party first. Life is constantly changing, but just because yours is, doesn’t mean everyone else’s is right now too. When you choose to switch jobs, change your class schedule, or make any changes that will alter the visitation schedule, you must keep the other party in mind. Sure, working the early morning shift may work best for you, but how does this affect your counterpart’s schedule? Do they have to change their without warning schedule to now accommodate your needs and still get the same amount of visitation time? Taking the time to see past your wants and needs and see what would work for everyone is definitely worth investing time into. Most of the time, when co-parents are mindful and flexible with each other, it’s often reciprocated. (Which you may need in the future).
Please, don’t do this! You will forever be referred to as the "Disney Land parent" and as magical as it sounds, it’s not. It’s annoying. For those of you who don’t know, a DL parent is someone who always wants to be the fun parent, the parent who can’t say no, the one who pulls the “I would let you, but your mom/dad said no, so you can’t” card. A common trait of the DL parent also means going against things you as a co-parenting team have already agreed upon, such as; the child getting a phone after age 12, dying her hair a wild permanent color, starting to date, or him getting a pet tarantula.
You are co-parenting, emphasis on the co. You don’t get to call all the shots, especially if things were already agreed upon in the past. You are pitting the child against the other parent and feeding into your own insecurities. Kids thrive on having boundaries and knowing their parents are on the same page. Going against the other parent, whether verbally or actually going through with it secretly, you are teaching the kids how to work against you in the future. It will backfire.
This one is a doozy. I have seen it and done it. (Not my proudest moments). I know sometimes the last thing you want to hear is “We had so much fun at Dad’s! We got ice cream, went to a jump house, and stayed up late.” When all you have to offer is, “Go do your homework, clean your room, and get a shower.” Face it, some days will just fall like that. However, the child’s excitement should not be penalized. This is especially hard when you’re not a fan of their other bio parent to begin with. Hearing about the fun they had with your child is not one of the top ten things you want to listen to today.
Hold back the eye rolls and cutting them off in the middle of how Dad’s new wife shot chocolate milk out of her nose because she laughed too hard at another one of his corny jokes.
If you don’t hide your disdain well, the kids will pick up on it, resulting in them not wanting to share anything with you. A child should never have to censor their emotions to protect yours. If your child refuses to talk about anything positive from the other parent’s home, because it may “annoy” or “aggravate” you, then you may be the problem.
Letting your kids open up about the small fun stuff makes them feel secure enough with you to open up about bigger things later. They need to know that whatever you tell them you will be a cheerleader, a helper, or an ear to listen. No one wants to talk to someone who makes their story about themselves. Look past your emotions and focus on the kids’ emotions.
This goes hand in hand with not responding to texts and calls. Things like school announcements sent home, grades, schedules, and medical appointments can easily fall through the cracks in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. You may ask, “It’s already hard enough keeping myself in the loop, now I have to keep them in it too?” The simple answer is yes, you do. 9 out of 10 times the teacher will send home one flyer, one report card, only one parent will go to the doctor’s appointment, and so on.
It is your job on those days to let the other parent know what’s going on. How would you feel if you didn’t see your daughter’s first A she received on her report card after you stayed up for hours with her studying for that final? What if you were waiting for the results for his doctor visit as to why he keeps getting ear infections, but you never hear anything? Instead, you’re forced to text or call multiple times to get a simple answer, “It’s just viral”.
Just take a picture of the report card, the medical report, or the stupid fundraiser paper, neither of you will probably participate in any way, and click send. Ultimately, this helps both parents know what the heck is going on in their kid’s life without the kid having to play messenger or the teachers having to relay the messages over and over again.
Some exes stink. They are awful humans who jump at any chance to make your life harder. Unfortunately, you’re stuck with them for a while, so you need to make it as cohesive as possible. One way to do this is to simply keep your comments to yourself. Your daughter doesn’t need to hear about what a bum Daddy is and your son doesn’t need to know that his mom was the queen of nag land. Children will form their own opinions of their parents based on their experiences with them. Kids aren’t dumb, they are observant and pick up on things pretty quickly.
Another thing to keep in mind, despite your feelings towards your ex, your child probably loves them, a lot. They don’t have to hate mom/dad just because you’re not a fan. That’s not fair to your child, let them form or break their own relationships.
Sometimes it just feels good to be the parent the kid doesn’t want to leave for the weekend, “But Mommy, I don’t want to go to Daddy’s I want to stay here with you!” Don’t lie, a little place in you tingles with joy knowing your child would rather hang with you instead. However, this isn’t a good thing to feed into. Children are loyal to their parents; they parrot and they want what you want. If you respond by saying, “Oh I know. I don’t want you to go either!”, how is that helping the child go to Dad’s home with a confident and excited transition? In their minds they hear, “Wait, Mom doesn’t want me to go either. I definitely don’t want to go now!” Then, Dad shows up and all of a sudden, his little princess wants nothing to do with him. That’s not fair or right. Instead, try “Oh, it will be fun at Daddy’s too! I will miss you, but we will be back together before you know it!” or “Daddy is really excited to see you, I know you’ve been missing him too, you will have a blast, as always.” Yeah, it stinks to have to play up the other parent sometimes, but if it gives the kid a sense of security about leaving you, then just do it.
This is a big no-no. Sometimes it’s hard to keep your feelings under wraps, especially when it involves your children, but pulling them into the problems causes a bigger one. Kids need to be kids. They do not have the emotional maturity or strength to take on adult issues. Kids worry about their parents because they love them and they want Mom and Dad happy. Don’t use this to your advantage. Call up a friend, pastor, or a family member and vent it out. Don’t allow your children to get wet from your storms.
Children aren’t pawns. You cannot use them to get back at your ex for ticking you off. Threatening to go back to court for more child support because he’s getting engaged or withholding the kids because he snapped at you, is hurting your kids. Sometimes, you just have to suck it up and be fair. No parent should have to walk on eggshells for fear of losing time with their kids or having to go back to court over trivial matters.
There you have it. Nine ways you may be the problem in your co-parenting situation. Not every scenario can be wrapped up in a pretty bow and filtered on Instagram, but taking these points into consideration can make things easier for everyone involved. At the end of the day, it’s about making sure the kids feel loved, secure, and get the best of both worlds between homes. Take it one day at a time. It’s an investment for your sanity and children. Even if the other parent doesn’t follow these guidelines, you will never regret being the bigger person. You got this!