No matter why your relationship ended, finding yourself as a co-parent means continued contact with the person you're no longer with. Sharing child-rearing duties and dealing with the decisions made by your ex is often challenging, but your child deserves a successful co-parenting environment. Understanding the responsibilities of co-parenting allows you to put your child first.
Setting Ground Rules
In any successful co-parenting environment, both partners need to agree to basic ground rules and guidelines for raising the child. The Office of the Attorney General of Texas suggests having a set of rules for the kids and the adults. The child rules dictate activities such as bedtimes, curfews, household rules, behavior expectations and chores. The parent rules spell out the duties of each parent, such as handling child drop-offs, caring for your child's clothing and managing medical care. The adult rules can also help define how you communicate and treat one another to maintain a respectful relationship. Ground rules give your child continuity between his two homes and helps reduce conflict.
As a co-parent, you are responsible for communicating with your ex in a productive manner so your child's needs are met. For example, if your preschooler has a regression in potty-training, your partner should hear about it so he can anticipate the issue. If your teen breaks curfew and is grounded, communicate that information. Keeping the communication business-like by sticking to the facts and talking in a respectful voice helps you relay the information accurately. All communication between co-parents should occur between the adults or through an impartial third adult. Asking your child to relay messages puts him in an unfair position.
Transitioning to shared custody throws your child's entire routine off course. With your co-parent, providing as much stability as possible helps your child with the transition. A consistent custody schedule helps your child get into a routine. Situations arise that force changes in the regular schedule, but stick with the custody arrangements when possible so your child knows what to expect. You can also provide comfort and familiarity by giving your child his own spot at both homes. By carving out a special place, he can feel he lives there instead of just visiting.
Conflicts are bound to arise when raising a child in two homes. Parents often have differing opinions on how to handle predicaments even when they're married. Allowing your ex to make decisions about your child can be challenging and lead to disagreements. It's easy to get caught up in getting your way, but keep your child and his needs as the focus. Remind yourself and your ex that doing what's best for your child is the goal. Compromising is often necessary to resolve the issue. If you cannot come to an agreement, an outside resource, such as a counselor or mediator, can help you work through the situation.