What is Co-Parenting?
Co-parenting has become more prevalent in the millennial age than any other decade, this can largely be attributed to global surges in divorce rates among marriages. But wait, this sounds familiar… So, what exactly is co-parenting? Co-parenting, or alternatively known as, shared-parenting or joint-parenting is the parental responsibility of divorced parents and can also be applied to separated parents and parents who weren’t ever married before.
For parents who are undergoing a divorce or a separation, these implications on children are a hard hitting reality which often leave them feeling confused, frustrated and scared.
Young children, especially so, find it difficult to grasp why they must alternate between the separate homes of their parents during the period of a separation, or, divorce and fear that their parents will stop loving them one day, and that the divorce or separation was somehow “their” fault in the way they must have misbehaved.
For teenagers, they may blame and resent either parents or both parents for the divorce. While approaching and managing these co-operating relationships can present their own unique challenges, it’s pertinent to remember that the common goal is putting the child’s needs first, and to raise them in such a way that they feel loved, understood and supported in a range of aspects such as interests, activities and school pursuits.
Why Co-Parenting is Important
The transition from our children’s happy childhood to becoming a well-adjusted, responsible adult is an aspiration any separated and divorced parent would want. This is where co-parenting comes in and helps parents take practical steps in ensuring this objective becomes achievable.
Children need love and emotional support but they also need structure, rules and consistency. During the arduous process of divorce, parents may feel reluctant disciplining their children considering what limited time they spend with their kids, allowing them to breach rules and undermine their responsibilities for fear that they might increase the emotional burden faced by the children, and at other times, letting misbehaviour occur without any disciplinary action in order to seem like an understanding or cool parent.
While the lack of discipline from parents seem harmless in the short term, it might lead to more adverse effects in the long run. To counter this, identifying aspects in your child’s life, such as education, your child’s medical, dental and psychological health, positive beliefs and values can give you a general perspective on where to start in the key areas in your child’s life in terms of guidance, discipline and nurturance. This creates a consistently healthy and stable environment for children as well as teenagers.
Benefits of Co-Parenting
Although co-parenting can proof to be testing and demanding at times, the benefits are many. Firstly, it helps with a child’s sense of security and it decreases stress. When separated or divorced parents work together, display mutual respect for other and search for appropriate conflict resolution styles, this puts the children at ease. They don’t feel the heartbreaking need to choose between parents as they can still be in a healthy relationship with both of them.
Secondly, using conflict resolution skills with civility between both parents helps develop beneficial models of problem solving and working out differences in a healthy manner. This has the capacity to influence children in acquiring these necessary life skills as adults. Next, it enhances positive communication between parents and child. This can reinforce moral behaviour, understanding between parents and child and lessen bad behaviour. It can also improve your child’s confidence and self-esteem.
Lastly, it reduces stress and anxiety expressed outside the home. When parents cooperate together and form a united front for their child’s major milestones in life, such as the first day of school, birthdays, parent teacher conferences, sports day and so on, it often relaxes the child where they won’t have to worry about it how their parents will react or conduct oneself during an important event in their lives.
The Challenges of Co-parenting
As with any undertaking, stumbling blocks may arise. Any form of negativity or obstructive behaviour from a co-parent makes the process inherently more difficult not only the parent but for the children too. Other than that, making the decision to parent together while living in different homes presents many challenges such as handling differing schedules, concurring on disciplinary methods and talking about parenting strategies. This can proof to be challenging as well as developing and instilling family rules in both households such as routines and discipline and so they may feel consistency and stability.
Another apt question to ask is it necessary for parents to have the same approach? No, it isn’t. While parents have their own parenting style, it’s important to agree with parenting strategies. For example, when a child is in a bad mood, parents might solve this is in their individual style such as using humor, or, affection. The key is to agree on the execution of strategy such as time out, loss of privilege so it’s consistent in both households.
What if the other half of the parent is constantly absent, or, overseas? In this case, it’s vital to communicate and share information about the other parent as much as we can to our child. It’s significantly essential to give children enough time to speak with them or the phone and email them from time to time. Giving your busy partner the opportunity to co-parent while they may not be physically present may also gives them a sense of security as they are still able to maintain their presence in their child’s life.
To get ahead of the co-parenting curve, there are strategies that can be applied to get co-parenting done right. One of the first, is keeping your partner up to date. It’s comforting for children to know when their parents know what happening in their lives. It’s advisable for both parents to be updated by using a shared online calendar that contains their children’s weekly schedule and any events.
Besides that, it would be helpful to plan for tasks, activities and events earlier. For health visits, school outings, school concerts and other events, in would be useful to coordinate these events earlier with your former partner. If you’re not able to attend these events together, it would be beneficial to know who is going to which event and when.
Next, would be to have more patience for your partner to learn the ins and outs of co-parenting. If you’re more experienced with the children before the divorce or separation, give some time for your partner to learn the ropes around the practical side of raising the kids. Although it may be enticing to criticize your former partner, remember that kindness is the way to go. Offer constructive criticism and point out the positives instead of reinforcing the negatives. Being ready for uncomfortable feelings such as loss, loneliness and disappointment is important for parents to self-regulate their emotions.
When your former partner is spending time with your child, for instance, you might be hit with the waves of these feelings. It would helpful to look at the positive side of things, for example, the time spent apart from your child could be used to invest your energy into exploring new hobbies, interests, and have some time for yourself to relax and compose oneself.
Ultimately, the hallmark of any good parenting, or, co-parenting is it’s important for both parents to make a commitment in raising a child together regardless if they are living apart. It’s essential for children to know that they’re a priority and that their parents will go above and beyond is supporting and keeping them safe no matter what occasion may rise.
Written by Eve Bandusena, Editorial Assistant