The decision to separate is a tough one, especially if a couple has kids. Psychologists have often argued that witnessing a loveless marriage where the parents are not happy, is more harmful to children than their separation. What matters to children is that they have a family, even if the father and mother decide to divorce or separate. Raising kids together, post-separation is termed as co-parenting or shared parenting.
Before you start Co-Parenting
Before you and your partner get down to discussing the deeper intricacies of shared parenting, there are some key areas of your child’s life that you must plan for:
- Education: Every parent wants to safeguard their child’s future. Hence, you must openly discuss the kind of school you want your child to attend, and your aspirations for their career.
- Health: As parents, your child’s health is of utmost importance to you, and so is having an upfront discussion around their medical expenses, doctor visits, and health insurance.
- Finances: Just as important as other things, it is for you to have a discussion on the child’s future financial needs, which include financial contributions for their expenses, setting up a college fund, and finalizing child support legalities.
- Special Occasions: At the end of the day, your child wants to feel connected to and being loved by both the parents. This implies taking turns at showing up for school functions, being present at parent-teacher conferences, and spending important holidays with them.
What are your responsibilities as a Co-parent?
The success of co-parenting depends on two key relationships: Your relationship with your partner, and your relationship with your kids. But before we discuss the co-parenting best practices, there is one truth you and your partner must accept from the beginning: The journey as separated parents is going to be hard. Do not set high expectations for yourself or your partner, and be ready to learn as you go.
Relationship with your partner
- Don’t avoid your co-parent – It is natural to not want to keep in touch with your ex-partner, however, it might not be the best thing for your child. Keeping in touch with them via texts, e-mails or calls will help you discuss matters relating to children openly. You can also try online planners to chart out weekly duties, events, and life updates.
- Make rules together – You and your partner will want to experiment with your parenting style, but you must not present your child with two completely different environments. Agree upon on some ground rules and discipline areas like in-time, eating habits and allowances, so your child is able to adapt to them.
- Co-parenting is not a competition – When you are living separately, you will often want your child to think of you as the better parent. This thought process may lead to a toxic outcome, both financially and emotionally. Your child might start avoiding the other parent, making co-parenting difficult for you both. It is important to show respect towards your partner so that your child learns the same and grows in a healthy environment.
Relationship with your child
- Constant communication with both parents – If you are the custodial parent, encourage your child to stay connected with the other parent via email, video call or text.
- Your Child is Not a Spy – Avoid putting your child in awkward situations like asking questions about your partner’s life. Ensure that you and your partner update each other about the big changes in your lives, like a new job or a new partner.
Remember that separation only dissolves you as a partner, but not as a parent. At the end of the day, it is important that you check-in with your kids frequently, take care of their mental health, and lend your emotional support. As enormous as the responsibility of parenting separately can seem, it is possible with a little compromise and adjustment and a whole lot of love for your children.