Co-parenting was always going to come up at some stage. I had made a list of topics I wanted to cover when I first came up with the concept of Love Laid Bare and co-parenting was featured quite high on the list. I even had listed the people that I thought would make the best guests to discuss it with.
Listen to this weeks podcast discussion on co-parenting with my guest hosts.
Now, what usually happens is that rather than following a schedule of topics that Ive put together, I get inspired at the eleventh hour by something I have seen or heard. The universe has a way of bringing the topics to me at just the right time.
This week was no different.
I came across a video on Twitter where a mother and father were having a seemingly petty altercation about their daughter. The mother wanted to put the child in the car and the father kept reiterating that he did not want her anywhere near his vehicle.
See an extract of the video below:
My honest and first reaction to this video was that of sadness.
When embarking on the co-parenting journey, how do we get to this point?
You can she that their daughter is visibly troubled by this altercation. No one is shouting but the energy is clearly toxic.
Why is it so hard to let go of the negative emotions that possess us at a time when we have to deal with the other parent?
Is it too much to be agreeable for two minutes for the sake of the child? If that cannot be achieved then surely someone else should handle that part of the visitation?
If we take a step back and honestly ask ourselves ‘Is my behaviour in the best interests of my child’ and the answer is no, then you probably need to change your behaviour.
In this example I believe both parents are being petty.
I can almost believe that initially the mother did want to just strap her child into the car. As mothers we can be a bit overprotective and if your child isn’t regularly with their father you may want to check that everything is as it should be.
If he has driven two hours to get there, we can only assume they have a fairly long journey back.
His insistence on not wanting her to be anywhere near the car probably did strike a suspicious attitude in her that then led to the pettiness.
The fact he already has a camera rolling suggests that their relationship has been toxic for a while and he isn’t prepared to take any chances.
As much as he didn’t want her near his car (for whatever reason) wouldn’t it have been easier to let her strap their daughter in? Even if she is being extra, so what? Neither person wins or loses anything by her doing that.
If he is concerned about her doing something whilst she’s in the car, have the video man record from the other side. Simple.
Their behaviour demonstrated nothing other than the fact they still have unresolved issues that have probably stemmed from when their relationship broke down.
We have to be more conscious about who we choose to have children with. This is not a game. We keep bringing children into the world with no solid foundation of a family structure. Then we wonder why our streets are a mess?
You also have to be conscious of your own behaviour. If you have the power to defuse a situation by doing something that is not going to cost you your dignity, then do it!
The passive aggressiveness does nothing but harm the child in the long run.
This is a classic example of how co-parenting goes wrong and how it can escalate to further problems.
Taken from a ‘Psychology Today’ publication, here are some recommendations of do’s and don’t’s when it comes to coparenting:
- Commit to making co-parenting an open dialogue with your Ex. Arrange to do this through email, texting, voicemail, letters or face to face conversation. There are even websites where you can upload schedules, share information and communicate so you and your Ex don’t have to directly touch base.
Rules should be consistent and agreed upon at both households. As much as they fight it, children need routine and structure. Issues like meal time, bed time, and completing chores need to consistent. The same goes for school work and projects. Running a tight ship creates a sense of security and predictability for children. So no matter where your child is, he or she knows that certain rules will be enforced. “You know the deal, before we can go to the movies, you gotta get that bed made.”
- Commit to positive talk around the house. Make it a rule to frown upon your children talking disrespectfully about your Ex even though it may be music to your ears.
Agree on boundaries and behavioural guidelines for raising your children so that there’s consistency in their lives, regardless of which parent they’re with at any given time. Research shows that children in homes with a unified parenting approach have greater well-being.
- Create an Extended Family Plan. Negotiate and agree on the role extended family members will play and the access they’ll be granted while your child is in each other’s charge.
Recognise that co-parenting will challenge you – and the reason for making accommodations in your parenting style is NOT BECAUSE YOUR EX WANTS THIS OR THAT, but for the needs of your children.
- Be Aware of Slippery Slopes. Be aware that children will frequently test boundaries and rules, especially if there’s a chance to get something they may not ordinarily be able to obtain. This is why a united front in co-parenting is recommended.
Be boring. Research shows that children need time to do ordinary things with their less-seen parent, not just fun things.
- Update often. Although it may be emotionally painful, make sure that you and your Ex keep each other informed about all changes in your life, or circumstances that are challenging or difficult. It is important that your child is never, ever, ever the primary source of information.
Go for the high notes. Each of you has valuable strengths as a parent. Remember to recognise the different traits you and your Ex have – and reinforce this awareness with your children. Speaking positively about your Ex teaches children that despite your differences, you can still appreciate positive things about your Ex. “Mommy’s really good at making you feel better when you’re sick. I know, I’m not as good as she is.” It also directs children to see the positive qualities in his or her parent too. “Daddy’s much better at organising things than I am.”
- Don’t burden your child. Emotionally charged issues about your Ex should never be part of your parenting. Never sabotage your child’s relationship with your Ex by trash talking. Never use your child to gain information about things going on or to sway your Ex about an issue. The main thing here is this: Don’t expose children to conflict. Research shows that putting children in the middle of your adult issues promotes feelings of helplessness and insecurity, causing children to question their own strengths and abilities.
Don’t jump to conclusions or condemn your Ex. When you hear things from your children that make you bristle, take a breath and remain quiet. Remember that any negative comments your children make are often best taken with a grain of salt. It’s always good to remain neutral when things like this happen. Research shows that your child can learn to resent and distrust you if you cheer them on.
- Don’t be an unbalanced parent. Resist being the fun guy or the cool mom when your children are with you. Doing so backfires once they return to your Ex – and sets into motion a cycle of resentment, hostility and a reluctance to follow rules for all involved. Remember that children develop best with a united front. Co-parenting with a healthy dose of fun, structure and predictability is a win-win for everyone.
Don’t give into guilt. Divorce is a painful experience, and one that conjures up many emotions. Not being in your child’s life on a full time basis can cause you to convert your guilt into overindulgence. Understand the psychology of parental guilt – and how to recognise that granting wishes without limits is never good. Research shows that children can become self-centred, lack empathy and believe in the need to get unrealistic entitlement from others. Confusion understanding the dynamics of need versus want, as well as taming impulsivity becomes troublesome for children to negotiate too.
- Don’t punish your Ex by allowing your child to wiggle out of responsibility. Loosening the reigns because you just want to be a thorn in your Ex’s side is a big no-no. “I know Mommy likes you to get your homework done first, but you can do that later.” “Don’t tell Daddy I gave you the extra money to buy the video game you’ve been working towards.” If you need to get your negative emotions out, find another outlet. Voodoo dolls, skeet shooting and kick boxing can yield the same results, but with less of a parenting mess. Remember, work before play is a golden rule – and one that will help your child throughout their lifetime. Making sure to be consistent helps your child transition back and forth from your Ex – and back and forth to you too.
Don’t accuse. Discuss. Never remain quiet if something about your Ex’s co-parenting is troubling you. If you don’t have a good personal relationship with your Ex, create a working business arrangement. Communication about co-parenting is extremely vital for your child’s healthy development. No finger pointing or you-keep-doing-this kind of talk. The best approach when communicating is to make your child the focal point: “I see the kids doing this-and-that after they return home from their visit. Any ideas of what we can do?” Notice there’s not one “you” word in there. No accusatory tone or finger-pointing either.
I believe the children are our future and we must do everything we can as parents to ensure the smoothest transition into adulthood.
We must teach them how to behave appropriately and always in love. How can we expect them to form healthy relationships if we cannot do the same?
We will continue this conversation next week with a personal account of the struggles of co-parenting.
If you are struggling to keep the peace with an ex-husband or partner and there are children involved, why not try family counselling? Relate in the UK specialise in this area and mediation.
Thank you for reading and have a wonderful week.