When you separate from your ex and have children together, your relationship isn’t over, it’s changed. You may not be romantically tied to each other anymore but you will remain in each other’s lives – learning how to get on and transition from parents to co-parents is a big shift for many couples. Getting it right isn’t easy, but it is worth it and will save you all a lot of hassle and headaches. Here are some tips on how to set things off on the right foot.
Creating a parenting plan is a game-changer. A parenting plan can help you to record the decisions you’ve made about how and where the children will live, and what your parenting boundaries are. It’s also a great way to pre-empt any issues that may arise in the future.
A parenting plan isn’t a legal document and it isn’t set in stone as your children’s ages and stages will change over time. But it is a helpful, structured way of establishing a co-operative parenting relationship.
You may be able to work through the process together by using a parenting plan template or you may need to seek support from a co-parenting coach who can help you work through the trickier sections such as shared care arrangements and who pays for what.
Don’t be put off if you and your ex have different parenting styles. This is not the end of the world and doesn’t need to come in the way of co-operative parenting. You just need to be able to work around it and stick to a plan which enables you to practice both your parenting styles.
Give each other time to adjust to your new roles and prepare for when things don’t go to plan. It’s OK to get things wrong, and if you cut your ex some slack, they will likely do the same for you. This is new for both of you and will take time some to get used to but you can be sure of one thing – it’s not going to always go to plan, and that’s OK. If you’re flexible and understanding with your child’s other parent, it’s likely that they will reciprocate. If you’re not willing to be flexible, this may cause tension and result in arguments and won’t benefit any of you.
It’s important to support your child’s relationship with their other parent. This includes encouraging them to communicate when they are with you. This could be in many forms such as calls, texts, or emails etc. Supporting your ex and cultivating an environment of openness where your children feel they can communicate with both of you will ease the change for them.
It’s important to keep the other parent in the loop where possible. This doesn’t need to be constant communication; you can just touch base when appropriate. Plan ahead so they aren’t blindsided by things that could have been avoided if you had communicated them earlier. Tools such as the amicable co-parenting app can help with this.
You and your ex might not be each other’s biggest fan but it’s important to avoid vocalising any negative feelings in front of your children. This can make your children feel like they have to pick sides and may affect their relationship with the other parent. If you do slip up, address it by saying something like “I’m sorry I spoke about your mum/dad like that, I was just cross and I shouldn’t have said that in front of you.”
If you always assume the worst about your ex and the things they do, it will likely lead to negative communication. Instead, try and gather all the facts before accusing them of anything and look at the positives in situations. If you lead by example, you will find that your children are better off because of it.
Keep communication short and sweet, especially over messages. Keep to the point and remove any ‘emotional messaging’. If you’re angry, wait until you have calmed down, read your message again and ask yourself if you’d be happy to send it to a business colleague before pressing send.
The amicable co-parenting app enables you to communicate with your child’s other parent in one secure place. The shared calendar helps you to stay organised and includes shared care schedules, one-off and recurring events for each child. The goals section helps you to define and communicate your boundaries and the messaging function stores all your co-parenting communication in one secure place. Try the app for free for 30 days to see if it can help improve your co-parenting relationship. After the free trial, the app is £9.99 a month or £99.99 for the year.
Rebecca Jones, amicable Divorce Coach