If your custody arrangement or court-order modification requires consistent co-parenting, here are six ways to make the back-and-forth schedules easier on everyone:
1. Know your triggers
What triggers your anger or annoyance with the other parent? Late pick-ups? Lack of discipline in the other parent’s house? Fed up with clothes and belongings being lost or frustrated by the eye roll? Once you have worked out what sets you off, you can be mindful of your response when faced with these triggers and make a conscious and positive choice to respond in a calm and measured way.
2. Set ground rules that you can both fully commit to
Work together to create a set of ground rules that cannot be broken, like a business contract between the two of you. Be sure to do this at a time when neither parent is upset or angry. These ground rules may include things like:
• don’t use the children as messengers
• don’t argue in front of the kids
• don’t bad mouth the other parent in front of the children.
3. Have a strategy for when things don’t go as planed
Once you have agreed on the ground rules, work out a plan of action for when one parent breaks the rules. Give each other permission to hold the other parent accountable and to state when a parent breeches your agreement. Perhaps you can agree that the best course of action in this circumstance is to stop the discussion and pick it up again when both parents are feeling calm. We all have bad days, make sure you have a plan in place to deal with them when they happen.
When you’re in the wrong and you feel sorry about something, make sure you apologize sincerely. Apologizing can really turn your co-parenting relationship around and help to move you to a more business-like and civil relationship, rather than an adversarial one.
There will be times when your anger or emotions get the better of you. When this happens, remember your commitment to your children, take ownership of your own actions and do the best you can to put your children first and to learn from the mistakes you make.
5. Check Your Ego
It’s not about you or about being right all of the time. Learn to compromise. Project a sense of being above the conflict at hand. Always take the higher road. It will do wonders for your child’s development and their own ability to resolve conflict down the road.
6. Focus on the Positive
When your child is with you, it’s ‘positive time’. Always stay focused on the priorities; don’t waste time on the superficial stuff. If the phone rings and it’s your child’s other parent pitching for another confrontation, let it ring. Do not shatter your peace and quiet and your time with your child with nonsense. I always tell my single-parent clients to say something good about their child’s other parent when their child is present – even if they don’t believe it.
Co-parenting is hard, I encourage my clients to do everything they can to work through all of the challenges that will come up along the way.