7 daily steps to healthy co-parenting.

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A few months back I had some friends ask if I would write about the birds and the bees. It was uncomfortable for some but I did it.  Now I’ve had a few friends ask that I write about co-parenting. It could be because I have a not so common co-parenting situation. It will be uncomfortable for some but I did it. I’ve been co-parenting with my ex-husband for 14 years and while we’ve had a few speed bumps along the way, we’ve had an oddly easy road. I honestly can’t remember the last time we had a disagreement and have no idea when the last time we actually verbally argued . I can say with certainty that it takes maturity on both sides to make it work and it has to be ALL about the child. I’d say when it comes to co-parenting ,on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best, we’re a solid 11. I’ve learned a few lessons over these 14 years that I think are pretty vital to assure that co-parenting works. I’m aware that there are unique situations that might not fit into these 7 suggestions but I also know that the majority of co-parenting situations can be so much easier than we make them. This is simply what I think are vital qualities to a healthy child in a co-parenting situation.

1. Brush your teeth and don’t forget to scrub your tongue.
Rule number one is to keep your mouth clean and to never let nasty words about your co-parent leave your mouth and enter the ears of your child. Bad mouthing your child’s other parent is toxic to the child and you are essentially bad mouthing half of who they are. You’re also making yourself look mean and bitter while slowly grating away at who your child is. My ex and I have always made it a point to hug each other when we are in front of our daughter even if we wanted to wring each others necks. She has never heard a single negative thing out of either of our mouths about her other parents, never and that includes step parents. No matter how solid you think your relationship is with your child, no matter how right you think you are in your feelings towards your co-parent, if you bad mouth them your child will resent you for it at some point in their lives. It might not be tomorrow or even 5 years from now but I promise it will happen.  Bad mouthing your child’s other parents falls in the category of Parent Alienation Syndrome and you don’t want to be that crazy parent do you?

2. Do this  math problem everyday. 1+1= 1
Your child should have one family. Co-parents need to be strong enough to accept each other as family and not make the child feel like they are living two separate lives.  A child should never have to pack an over night bag to go stay at their parents house. A child should have everything they need at both houses and shouldn’t feel like a guest or overnight visitor in either home. All extended family members are equally family members, even if you think your side of the family is better than theirs. Our daughter has 4 half sisters, a half-brother and a step sister but our family doesn’t use those words. In our one big family she has 5 sisters and a brother. Step parents are just as responsible and respected as bio parents. We do not have separate birthday parties and we all sit together if our child has an event we need to attend. We are her family, one family.

3. Do yoga every morning                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Stretch it out, you’re going to need to be flexible. My co-parent and I threw out custody papers a long time ago and decided to simply be adults about it all. We don’t believe in “my time” and “your time”. She’s our daughter, not a possession. In or eyes it doesn’t matter if she’s with me or him, as long as she’s with family. We do every other weekend but in the summers and holidays we kind of just do whatever. This year she spent Mother’s Day at his house, not because I didn’t want her with me but because she was staying that weekend with him and he wanted to cook dinner for his mom and have her there too. She was with family and that’s what matters.  We simply share in the joy of raising her with out the stress of a schedule drawn out by lawyers who don’t really know our family dynamics. If you are all about sticking strictly to the papers then I hope you never have anything come up where you might need your co-parent to work with you bending them a little. You can’t have it both ways.

4.Wash your laundry everyday, empty the dirty laundry hamper.                                                                                                                                  Let it go. Stop airing dirty laundry.  If you’re still bringing up what your co-parent did wrong 2, 5, 10 years ago then you are carrying a weight that is crippling you and the healthy growth of your child. Let it go.  And really, how clean is your closet? Be honest. There is no perfect parent so if you want to point out your co-parents flaws, you might want to get a mirror.  Life is much better for all involved if you learn to encourage each other as parents instead of bash each other or try to win as the better parent.  The parent who’s keeping score will always end up to be the loser.

5.Take off your tiara  and pack it away                                                                                                                                                                                          It’s no longer about you. Your days of reining over your world are over. It’s now only about the child and what’s best for them.  What is truly in the best interest of your child might not match what you feel is in your best interest. Sorry for your luck. If you are currently arranging things to ease your feelings then you’re doing it wrong.  Your job is to nurture the relationship between your child and your co-parent without letting yourself get in the way. What!?  Yes, they aren’t puppets, they’re people and trying to control their relationship is a hopeless battle. Instead try encouraging them to have their own unique relationship and not one you designed for them.  If one of your parents bad mouthed your other parent or tried to control your relationship with them, break the cycle instead of continuing a toxic tradition.

6.Upgrade your cell phone plan                                                                                                                                                                                                          Communicate with each other, respectfully. Talk about things, talk about everything. Talk to each other, not through your child. Don’t bottle issues up only to explode later or pull them out as a weapon when needed. Just communicate and work things out like adults.  You are not always going to see eye to eye and that’s okay, it’s normal but it doesn’t have to be World War 3. This is when the yoga things comes in handy again. You’ll have to bend and compromise. You can’t always have your way. Have enough respect for yourself, your co-parent and most important your child to sit down and work out issues before they cause friction in your family.  NEVER EVER EVER involve your child in adult situations, they are children and need to stay that way. They should not shoulder the burden of adult problems.  Involving them in adult situations is extremely selfish and immature.

 

7. Take a daily trip.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     So remember that one time when you really really liked your co-parent, maybe even loved them.  There had to be a time at some point when you thought enough of them to lay down with them if you know what if you know what I’m saying.  Remember that daily.  Gross right? Not really. Remembering why our child’s here in the first place can take away negative thoughts about your co-parent. I mean really, look at your child and remember that they wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for your co-parent. Try thanking them for it today.

 

I think my most rewarding moment as a co-parent was when I got a call from the school counselor when my daughter was in second grade. She told me that she had my daughter and another little girl in her office just chit chatting about different things. The other little girl said that her parents were getting a divorce and she was mad. My daughter chimed in and said “So what, my parents are divorced and they love each other”. The counselor was calling to tell me congrats on whatever it was that my ex and I were doing because our little girl was clueless that divorce can cause major issues. She was just completely confident that no matter what her mommy and daddy loved her and each other and that’s all that counts. That’s not to glorify divorce or say that we want our daughter to think divorce is easy or good. It says that we have done everything possible to not let our choice for divorce to negatively affect her. It was our choice, not our daughter’s.

 

48 thoughts on “7 daily steps to healthy co-parenting.

  1. Love this! My parents split when I was 4mo old and I never once thought it wasn’t normal for mommy and daddy to live apart or that I only saw daddy Friday thru Sunday unless mommy was busy. They had the same rules, gave hugs and visited all the time and I thought it was normal til I hit elementary school. To this day, holidays are spent together, and they’re friends.

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  3. All of this is SO truthful. The only thing I would add is it takes 2. I do my part. I treat my ex with respect. I never say a bad word about him, and I tell my family not to. I tell the kids the things that made me fall in love with their dad and about my former inlaws best traits. Right now my ex can’t follow these principles, so we can’t get along this well. And that is NOT a failing if you are dealing with an ex with pychiatric health issues or an abusive ex. I really want to be able to sit together or hug him, etc. Sometimes I feel like I am failing because I can’t. But he’s verbally abused me and physically threatened me in front of my kids. And in the long run, that is far more detrimental to them than my not being able to sit with him. They were SO upset. My son cried because his dad told them that I am stealing all his money. Ultimately they get it…my daughter commented once that “dad can’t be nice to mom.” But the crazy part is, I’m not sure they know I don’t exactly like him. They saw a picture of us together and asked me if I wanted it by my bedside table. They talk to me about him all the time. Without slamming their dad, I really want them to know it’s ok to choose not to be around someone who is abusing you. So I guess I just feel that it’s worthwhile to mention that abusive situations can be different. Thanks for this post and for encouraging us to be the grown ups and put our children’s needs first. Many parents (divorced or not) don’t do this and it’s our kids that really get hurt, especially in divorce situations. Now what you can say about your kids stepmom…I hope if I ever get there I can do that. I can’t yet…

    • I’m pretty much in the same situation, stayed in a really bad and abusive (emotionally and spiritually) Marriage for the kids sake for far too long and really had to fight to get out of the co-dependency I found myself in. It took me two years af therapy to be able to stand on my feet at least sort of. While I really worked on respecting my ex as the father of my kids, he will not return the favour is has been very efficient in treaching my two older kids that mommy does not have to be taken serious and is only following her own strange thoughts that are just stupid or silly. We have had supervised talks on and off for the past three years and talk about the very same issues ever since without ever getting anywhere. I have a really hard time keeping up my positive attitude towards him when he influences the kids in such a horrific way.
      With my partner now, otoh, there are no such issues, his ex and him work togehter for the sake of their kids (by now at lieast, took some time of adjusting), and by now, her and me can talk to each other in person and respect each other. The difference between how the children in each situation fare is stunning, and often leaves me sleepless at night, worrying about my kids :o( (Hope I didn’t make too many mistakes, as I am not a native speaker…)

    • I tried and still try taking the highest road I can. The one that’s keeping score has become the loser because my children (wise beyond their years-and unfortunately have seen it all) know and feel the difference between houses and time spent with each parent. It’s sad and no matter what (everything will be blamed on me, he has no money for food etc because he’s paying me too much, but can be looking at rings for his girlfriend with the kids – seeing high price tags, can’t pay for after school sports etc because of the same excuse- could go on and on) our kids are the ones these parents are hurting and nothing will help them to “just get over it”. The selfishness and immature ways can’t be pulled out after a marriage is over and especially if one parent tried to help make those changes that never took place during the marriage.
      There have been times when he is on the high road, but unfortunately something steers him into a major catastrophic crash and his high road becomes bumpy and ends in a valley. We never know what’s gonna do this and the forgiving and going up and down on the roller coaster is not easy. All I’m saying is times are great when we are on the same high road, but when personality issues/etc drive someone off the road and on the road and off the road and on the road- it’s really hard to be happy, sit with them, trust them, and showing children that. it’s ok to continue to do this to others is not right either … Wishing all parents could be like the ones in the article but so many have it the way we are describing 😦 I’ll keep trying and I’ll keep doing everything I can to help my children grow up strong and secure (no matter who they are with!) I’ll also keep praying the low road stops returning and the high road becomes the only road there is for the other side to take.

  4. I’ve been in prayer for help with my boys mom and the back sliding we’ve been having recently and your blog on “My open letter to my daughter’s step-mom” came across my FB feed, and I teared up. I emailed it to her…I then again read it and clicked on this link. I am in absolute agreement with everything you wrote and maintained a similar relationship with my childrens father before he passed and I am confident that because of our love for each other helped my children mourn their father openly and honestly with me. I have forgotten my role in this relationship and this has been such an answered prayer. Thank you for loving and sharing your life. I have been blessed. (Sorry for the over share)

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  7. I love this so much, it brought me to tears. Maybe that’s because I’m an over-emotional 18 year old, or maybe it’s because I’ve finally, after 10 years of bad divorce-family memories, found happiness in my family relationships. Not that I’m trying to have a pity party or anything, but my parents have not been the greatest co-parents. I didn’t realize until recently that my father makes me feel a lot more loved than my mother, and reading this, I’ve found that it’s probably due to the fact that he follows a lot of these tips sub-consciously.
    Being an older child of divorce, I just want to say that this list is so SO accurate. I almost envy your daughter, because I didn’t have that loving co-parenting going on. I wish I had. I can tell that these things would seriously benefit a child of separation. I’m in love with this. So thank you.

  8. Wow I wish my parents had read this 30 years ago. I have no relationship with my dad and struggle to remain close to my grandparents because of all the hurtful things my parents said to each other through me and my sibling. I’m so happy for your little girl that she has such wonderful parents that truly put her first. Well done!!

    • I agree with you. My parents would have never been able to make this work though. It was like one was an dog trying to communicate with a tree. a legal document was necessary. I still say that my parents divorce was one of the best things that happened to my family. It is true though that everything took a huge tole on my sister and I. My sister and I no longer have contact with my mother and my dad and I talk maybe once a month while my sister talks with him maybe once every four, and because he wasn’t in my life as a teen growing up, the relationship is more of just another elderly person that I get along with rather than my flesh and blood father who I look up to and can go to about anything.

      I now have a son, and thankfully I really do think his mother and I can make this work using your steps. I’d also add to the list,”read daily” because for us, it would be the bible, reading anything that has to do with bettering yourself can make a world of difference in attitude, communication, perception, and it allows for opportunity for things to talk about that are good as well as it is a great habit to instill in your kid.

  9. Sadly, this only works when you have someone who is willing to work with you and is open to compromise. Someone who will take your feelings into consideration and won’t just act impulsively and thoughtlessly. Someone who doesn’t just think about herself.

    • Isn’t that just the thing? If you still loved each other, treated each other with respect, consideration, and could resolve issues with maturity and compromise…wouldn’t you still be together? (At least in 95% of the cases…)

      • Often times, you can be a wonderful and caring person, but a terrible spouse. Sometimes two people can’t manage to successfully cohabitate. Just because you can’t get along with someone in a marriage scenario does not mean that you can’t respect them as a person enough to discuss matters that relate to the children.

        I am currently living in such a scenario. I am one of the step-parents. The two bio-parents were like fire and gasoline while married. Now, they get along better than they ever did. It’s amazing how much you can learn to like someone again after the stress of a partnership are gone. From what I witnessed, after each person dropped their baggage and reclaimed their happiness, they realized that their ex-partner isn’t as terrible as they once thought.

        Disclaimer: Despite my opinion above, I agree, as previously stated, that this situation does not apply when the original partnership was abusive, physical or otherwise. When this is the case, additional steps need to be taken to rectify the situation, if possible.

  10. This is good advice that I will keep in mind when dealing with my sons father. We haven’t been together for like three years and still continue to struggle to get along. Sometimes everything is fine but other times we can very nasty and honestly its exhausting. I will definitely put some of these tips into use!

  11. I think this is absolutely wonderful! I’m a first time parent and I wanted to add that some of these rules can apply to those parents that aren’t divorced or separate as well. There are some really good points in this article and I’m glad I came across this!

  12. Pingback: Letter to my daughter’s stepmom: I never wanted you here, but…Coaster World News | Coaster World News

  13. My only question is, why did you get divorced in the first place? It seems like a healthy relationship like this would have endured a marriage. I have played out all kinds if scenarios and can’t think of one reason why I would walk away from a seemingly loving relationship like this.

  14. I really wish that my boy’s Mom would read this. In one breath she says negative things about my role in their life and the next she is thanking me. Recently, she sent a message that the boys were no concern of mine because she is their mother and that she and my husband do a great job co parenting without me. REALLY?! I follow all of these steps even when I do not want to but it is difficult. I am not their biological Mother but I am still their Step Mom and I treat them with the same love and compassion as I do my daughters. When I came along all they did was fight and say nasty things to each other constantly. I am the one who reminded my husband that at some point that he did love her enough to have not one but two children with her and he needs to respect her for that if nothing else. I could go on and on but I hope one day that we can at least be in the same room and the boys don’t think they have to choose.

  15. I agree with most of this for the most part. The only part I have a problem with is the talk to each other about everything part because that doesn’t work. Because me and my wife both have daughters by other people and her daughter’s dad and my daughter’s mom seem like they would love nothing more than to see us split up so they try to use out daughter’s as leverage. So we don’t talk to them about everything. There is really no need if it’s just going to keep getting reverted back to that. We are the adults in both situations. Her daughter calls me dad and doesn’t ask About the bio and I rarely see mine because of how the others are. We have tried and got no where. When it’s one sided none of this advice works.

  16. It’s quite hard to read this, without thinking that you were blessed – both parties have to put the kids first for this to work – I remember when quite early on when my husband moved out, and my 11 year old son asked me if we could change the arrangements so he had more time with his Dad (at the time, every other weekend, and one night a week) and I told him, despite my sinking heart that of course we could, we both wanted him to be happy, and I would get in touch with his Dad – and I spoke to his Dad, who said what he always says ‘I’ll have to think about that and get back to you’, and then he doesn’t – so I reminded him, and got the standard response ‘I have not had time to think about that properly yet, I will get back to you’, and he didn’t. After a few weeks, my 13 year old daughter, who knew that her brother wanted more time with his Dad, told me that she had asked her Dad about why nothing had been sorted, and he had said he did not want to have to drive our boy into school on an additional day – despite working at the bottom of the hill where our son goes to school. I spoke to their Dad, he agreed that he did not want to have our son, and blamed me for promising our boy that he would have him – it had never occured to me that our boy would not be wanted, our daughter already spent more time than him with her Dad, and her school was next to his. So, my heart breaking for him, I had to tell our son that his Dad was happy with the arrangements as they stood.

  17. I am recently divorced and like you get along rather well with my childrens soon to be “bonus mom”. I love what I’ve read of your blog so far and find it incredibly helpful in a situation that started out very hurtful and scary but has turned out to be a blessing for not only my children but myself.
    I look forward to all of your posts.

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  19. Hi, wow! This is a fantastic post that I wish I’d read years ago. Thank you! This is wonderful.
    I’ll try to get the “princess tiara” off and watch what I say.
    Alas, I was wallowing in hurt, uncertainty (having no confidence in myself, which turned me into an ugly, unbelieving person) confusion and negative talk. It’s affected everything and I got on the way of a good relationship between him and his daughter and his beautiful wife. I’m unable to thank him (he’ll bite my head off as he sees the words “Thank you” as an insult, which it’s not!) But I am thankful to him and his wife.
    Enough of silly, negative and immature me….
    You sound like you’re an amazing woman, raising a beautiful young lady! Keep up the great work, growth and love.
    All the best

  20. Advice needed: How am I supposed to co-parent when the woman he’s with (and who he cheated on me with) won’t let him talk to me?

  21. I love this article, your perspective, and your courage.

    My parents divorced when I was four, and my life (and those of all of my siblings) has been blessed by a community of adults who raised us all with love and maturity. I know we are an exception: my step-father’s ex-wife used to babysit us after school, and we used to have massive “family” dinners where ex-wives would be holding new babies of their children’s “bonus mom” (whoever came up with that – I love it!).
    We (the kids) talk all the time about how much respect we have for the group of adults who raised us, because as adults now ourselves, we know how very hard it must have been some days to “take off the tiara”.

    At 30, I am now unexpectedly about to become the bonus mom of two amazing kids. I think that my experience of a blended family makes this situation a bit easier, but I now see from my own experience how important it is to remember those rules and put those little ones first. After reading your articles, I am going to take more time to communicate with the kids’ mom about how much I appreciate how open and easy she has been on my coming in to the kids’ lives, and how she has encouraged them to love me. I feel so grateful to be in a situation that is as full of love as my own was, and I think it’s important for people about to start co parenting to hear these success stories, and have hope and faith that their efforts to make it the most positive experience as possible for the children will succeed.

  22. It has been so lovely to read this post and all the replies… I’m just starting out as a ‘bonus/step’ mom… but we have a very different and slightly complicated situation. My boyfriend had a daughter with his first partner but they separated. Not long after the separation, she was diagnosed with cancer and fought for 5 long hard years until it took her. She left behind her first daughter (age 13 then) and her daughter with my boyfriend (age 6 at the time). For various reasons, it was decided that the girls would stay together with their uncle. My boyfriend’s ‘step-daughter’, having just lost her mum, then lost her dad and her grandma within 6 months. Time moves on, and my boyfriend had another daughter with a woman who is quite frankly plain nasty! Not only, have I gained a new partner but a whole family aged not quite 2, 10, and now 17. I have made it perfectly clear that the girls will always come first because that’s the way it should be… It’s a whole new world out there for me…but when he tells me they’re already asking to spend time with me and when can they see me again, my heart swells with even more love… xxx

  23. Thanks for this, I needed to read it.
    My question is what if your coparent doesn’t play by these guidelines? Maybe even someone who is mentally ill and tends to be selfish, vindictive, and has wild mood swings. If I am always the one who is bending and the other parent is the one who is pushing, doesn’t something eventually break? My child is only one and I struggle to find the balance.

  24. I love every moment of this. I have been co-parenting since my son was 8 months old and he’s 7 now. I can honestly say I love my son’s step-mom, even to the point that we talk daily and I consider her one of my closest friends. My ex husband and I haven’t had an argument in years and our focus is on for the best of our son. I am also remarried and all four of us get along, enjoy each others company and want the best for our son, as well as all of our other 4 children. God has been so gracious to us in all of this! Thank you for articulating something I’ve wanted to say for years!!

  25. I love the article as I am struggling with being the mom of a 4 month old and dealing with her father’s new girlfriend. I am reminding myself daily that her being around will be good for my daughter, but parenthood is already so new to both of us, it is hard for me to understand how he is able to introduce someone new into the crazy/wonderful/confusing situation we are in…I say confusing bc I have absolutely no romantic feelings for him anymore and never really did so very different from a divorced couple if you can imagine… How long did it take for you all to accept the “bonus mom?” My fear is I will accept her and then their relationship will go south….and how unfair that will be for my daughter. Luckily, she doesn’t understand anything right now so we have time to sort it all out but it does hurt my heart a little to see this woman posting pictures of my daughter on social media after only meeting her a handful of times. I think I will read your rules daily to help rid me of the bitterness I am feeling and remember that my daughter can not possibly be loved too much by too many people.

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  30. While I can appreciate your article, co parent isn’t as easy as you make it out to be – couples divorce for many different reasons and to expect that a mother and father are suppose to hug each other and act like Gweneth Paltrow and her ex is beyond unrealistic.

    Let me tell you about my situation. My husband had an affair when I was 8 months pregnant with our son. About 2 hours after we came home from the hospital after our son had been in the NICU, my husband abandoned us and would go days without checking in. About 6 months after I gave birth, I was diagnosed with postpartum and told my husband I needed his help and support. That message fell on deaf ears. My husband at the time was living a double life with his girlfriend while still married to me and when I tried to leave the marriage, he threatened to commit suicide. I stayed in the marriage hoping things could or might get better. After learning of the affair, I stayed in the marriage for another 4 years in hopes we could work things out but we ended up getting a divorce. Our son had just turned 5 when we officially separated homes and I made many attempts to get him to understand the importance that we tell our son that we were divorcing. He refused to have that conversation together and his way of telling our son was to buy him a book. After discussing with a family therapist and our sons pediatrician, I ended up having the conversation with our son myself. Now after dumping the woman he was having an affair with he has found someone else and he’s decided he might want to be a co parent but that’s because the girfriend is watching and encouraging him to be nice to me. I have raised our son virtually by myself since he came home from the hospital and have been the stable person in his life that has provided for nearly all of his needs. To write an article that suggests that a single parent that’s been in my position should be flexible and co parent with someone who now only shows interest in being a conparent because someone else is watching is beyond unreasonable. No man that leaves his wife and baby and essentially decides to dump us and not be an active participant in our lives deserves a second chance. He had his opportunity and now he’s going to pay a hefty price when his son asks why dad wasn’t around when he was younger.

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