Top 10 Tips For Co-Parenting
Are you tired of constant arguing and bickering with your ex about the kids, about their activities, about the parenting time schedule, about paying for the kids’ braces, about…everything really?
Or are you one of the lucky few yet to experience a breakdown in the co-parenting relationship and on the search for the secret of how to avoid such struggle?
No matter which boat you currently find yourself in, you are not alone! Arizona ranks as the state with the 13th highest divorce rate, and is 15% higher than the national average. But do not lament! There are a lot of co-parents out there and, lucky for you, many have successfully navigated the co-parenting waters and shared their experiences and tips with us. Here are our top #10 tips for effective co-parenting, in no particular order:
- Put pride aside and put the kids first. Center your decisions around what is best for your kids. They didn’t ask to be in this situation – and now it’s your job to advocate for them. One of the more common co-parenting squabbles we often see involve giving parental consent. It’s easy to automatically say “no” to anything your ex asks of you. I mean, they’re your ex for a reason. But is an automatic “no” the best decision for your kids? For example, let’s say your ex asks you to sign a permission slip to allow the kids to participate in afterschool painting classes on your ex’s “days.” If the kids want to do it, don’t hold back your consent out of spite because your mad at your ex. Let the kids paint!!
- Communicate – appropriately and respectively – directly with your ex (unless prohibited by court order). Both parents need to be aware of the kids’ schedule, routine, activities, appointments, etc. Be courteous in your texts/emails, business-like, and timely respond to message from your ex.
- Diffuse conflict. Do not communicate with your ex in an argument or when tensions are on high. Calm down and collect your thoughts first. Successful communication requires level heads and is not best done via a 2AM ranting text message
- Do not badmouth or bash your ex on social media. If other adults are involved, such as new spouses or older siblings, this applies to them too. Commit to positive talk around the children.
- Play nice and be nice – even when you don’t want to – and always when the kids are within eye or ear-shot. And make the child exchanges short and sweet – less opportunity to quarrel.
- Be patient. A successful co-parenting relationship takes time to nurture. Do not get discouraged if you still experience some bumps in the road. Co-parenting will challenge you.
- Learn to negotiate and compromise schedules. If you are flexible to your ex’s requests, chances are they will be more likely to be flexible to your requests. For example, your sister is flying into town next Friday and your kids haven’t seen her in years. But next Friday is your ex’s “day.” Do you think your ex will be more likely to switch “days” with you if you extended the same courtesy to them the last time they asked for a switch?
- Be on the same page. Strive for a unified parenting approach, with similar expectations and rules in each household (i.e., same bed time, homework rules, cell phone rules, etc.). Providing your kids with consistency, across both households, will increase their sense of security and safety, and overall wellbeing.
- Know when it’s time to seek outside input. If you and your ex cannot come to an agreement on big decisions, like school selection for next year, you may want to consider talking with your ex to a mediator. Mediators can be a great resource to settle these types of disputes without having to get the courts involved again, which we all know is a long and costly process.
- Practice empathy. Towards your kids and towards your ex. Try to put yourself in their shoes when navigating a sticky situation.
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Randi Partain, Senior Family Law Paralegal, Dodge & Vega PLC
Ben Dodge, Esq., Affordable Arizona Family Law Attorney, Entrepreneur, Endurance Athlete, Ultra Cyclist
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