Co-Parenting: Tips for Better Communication
Children need to grow up in a stable and secure environment. Being stuck in the middle of their parents’ arguments can create distress and feelings of insecurity. It’s vital to find a way to maintain a healthy relationship with your co-parent, whether you are a co-parent by choice or as the result of a divorce. Being able to communicate effectively with your co-parent will help you to build a good relationship, as well as to ensure a safe environment for your child.
Why should you work on having better communication?Effective communication benefits everyone: co-parents, their partners and their children. Being raised by parents who respect each other and get along well allows children to feel more secure and confident of the love their parents feel for them.
Moreover, children need consistency and feel better with a routine. If they live in two different houses, it’s best to keep the rules and forms of discipline they experience similar. Being able to communicate peacefully will help you come to an agreement regarding the rules, and therefore, to respect your children’s needs.
Ultimately, remember that you are their role model. An example to follow. Children mimic their parents’ behaviour and repeat what they hear. By maintaining a healthy relationship with your co-parent through effective communication you’re teaching your children to do the same when it comes to interactions with their friends, teachers, or future romantic partners and colleagues.
How to communicate effectively with your co-parent
1. Work as a teamIf you’ve chosen to have a baby with a co-parent outside of a romantic relationship, you’re most likely on good terms. On the contrary, if you’re co-parenting as the result of a divorce, there might be residual tension between you and your ex which can make maintaining a good relationship complicated.
However, your child's wellbeing should always be your top priority, regardless of any arguments and disagreements. If it helps you, treat your co-parent like a business partner. You are a team working together to raise a happy child. Be polite and respectful and focus on your common goal: your child.
2. Keep track of your expenses and visitsVia co-parenting apps or an agenda, make a note of all the expenses related to your child, as well as visiting schedules and appointments. These tools will help you not to forget anything, which is very useful when you’re a parent with a busy life. They’re also a good aid to prevent any disagreements or dishonesty regarding who spent what and when.
3. Put yourself in their shoes and listen to each otherWhen you can, try to put yourself in your co-parent’s shoes to see things from their perspective. They did something that you didn’t like? There is probably an explanation for this. Maybe they were stressed, they hadn’t slept for days or they thought they were doing the right thing. Perfect co-parenting doesn’t exist and you’ll probably both make a few mistakes along the way. Try to understand why they did what they did before judging them and getting angry.
4. Be prepared to compromiseThere will be moments when you’ll disagree with your co-parent, whether this concerns discipline, sleepovers or clothing. Be open and flexible. Finding an agreement that meets everyone’s expectations is sometimes necessary and essential to make a relationship work. Also, if this is your co-parent’s birthday and they'd like the kids to be with them for this special event but it happens to be your parenting time, let them spend this nice moment together!
Moreover, writing down a co-parenting agreement will help you to outline each parent’s rights and responsibilities towards the child, as well as everyone’s intentions. This agreement details things such as shared or joint custody arrangements, education, childcare, bedtimes, and so on. However, as life cannot be planned, and your child's needs will inevitably change as they grow up, you must be prepared to make amendments and perhaps even compromises.
5. Create family timeWhether this is sharing a meal at home, going to a restaurant, the cinema or a funfair, it’s important to regularly have family moments where the co-parents, children and siblings can all be together. During the holiday, at the weekend, or even Christmas, these warm moments will help strengthen bonds and will also provide great opportunities for nice pictures and memories.
6. Talk to each other frequentlyYou may have a busy, hectic life but you still need to find quality time to have good conversations with your co-parent.If you are co-parents by choice (which means that you’ve decided to have a child within a co-parenting agreement) it might have taken you years to finally find the best co-parent to have a child with. You may have become great friends. It’s vital that you find enough free time to be together and continue to sure up your friendship, with and without the kids. Having open and friendly discussions is very important.
7. Update regularlyMake sure that each parent feels fully involved in their child’s upbringing. When this is your parenting time, it’s best to regularly communicate with your co-parent about what’s happening in your child’s life, whether this concerns school, their health or their friends. Keep up-to-date via phone calls, emails, texts, and whenever you see your co-parent.
8. Be polite and respectfulIf you want to maintain a friendly and healthy relationship with your partner, you’ll have to make an effort. You must be polite and respectful with your co-parent, both in your words and your behaviour.
Having a respectful attitude includes being on time for any appointments, accepting to help each other out when needed, respecting visiting schedules and not cancelling a visit at the last minute. Also, you should avoid making important decisions regarding your child without talking about it with your co-parent first. You’re both the parents of your child. Try as much as possible to respect your co-parent’s choices and wishes.