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Extracurriculars: Getting on the Same Page with your Co-parent

Even on a good day, there seem to be endless points of disagreement with your co-parent. We’re really talking about differences in micro-values and priorities.
(3 min 31 sec

Dave Chartier
A single co-parenting dad, a freelance writer and former syndicated dad blogger with work published in USA Today, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

Even on a good day, there seem to be endless points of disagreement with your co-parent. When talking about differences that pop up, things like homework, school activities and sports, we’re really talking about differences in micro-values and (perhaps) differences in priorities. These differences are the sandpaper of any co-parenting team, even the good ones.

Here’s a kernel of truth to chew on as you stare across the playground at that seemingly happy couple, even married couples squabble and fight over this stuff. So how do you get beyond the squabbling and entrenchment? How can you find the middle ground? Is there room to compromise?

One thing to keep in mind as you wrestle with each other’s differences; ask yourself two things;

  1. How does my position on this issue help my child thrive? How is he/she benefiting?
  2. Is this about me being right (EGO)? Or, do I think it is best for the kid (kid-centered decision making)?

As co-parents become caught up on the details and heels dig in on a regular basis, many parents seemingly forget what it’s like to see eye to eye and move beyond small differences. Much of these issues may be mired in the micro (the details) view so switch it to the macro view. Perhaps one co-parent wants to implement a volunteering schedule at the soup kitchen but you’re not down with that. It may be totally fine for you to volunteer with the Audubon Society and help plant trees. The kids get to have that good feeling, experience different ways to give back to the community and you get some say on where you spend your time with junior.

Sports can be a tough one. Everybody has an opinion about playing sports. Some have bigger time commitments, others are more expensive, or require more traveling, while others are more physical leaving your kid prone to injuries. Also, most co-parents have their favorite sport, perhaps mom grew up playing volleyball or soccer while dad favors baseball or football.

But now that you’ve joined ‘Team Co-parent’, and realize things don’t get easier when there are disagreements, how do you get through the impasses between co-parenting styles, schedules, budgets and (kid) benefits? Co-parents entangled in arguments expel extra energy just to maintain the lines.

Go into it understanding a decision will be made and it is not about who will win the disagreement, rather focus on how the child will benefit most from the decision. Seeing the issue through this lens may help you both move beyond the power struggle;

  • Listen to Your Co-parent’s Position.
    Understand how it helps the kid. Does the homework schedule fit the kid and their needs? How can you compromise or adjust so they have a predictable stable home schedule? How does the sport or extracurricular activities add value to the kid’s life? Please remember, the goal is not necessarily to agree on everything. A co-parenting team can still thrive and not agree on every issue. So long as it is in the best interest of the child, strive to hear each other’s opinion and compromise whenever possible.
  • Respect time and money.
    Most extra-curricular activities are a shared expense across co-parents’ homes. If time or money are points of friction, you may need to set parameters around this. Our experience with this shows a limit of 1-3 sports and/or activities per kid and a dollar limit keeps everyone in check. In some cases, this helps streamline the decision-making process as there may not be time/money to do it all with each kid every season.
  • Schedule Time to Discuss.
    By scheduling regular check-ins you can help eliminate on-the-spot squabbling in front of the children and hash out decisions regarding sign-ups, schedules and shared expenses with a focused conversation.

It is best to have check-in conversations with your co-parent before registration emails are sent out so you can have an adult conversation, and make sure you’re on the same page. This goes for summer camps, as well. There is nothing worse than finding out your kid has been signed up for something with little to no conversation and now you’re on the hook to support that activity and make sure the kid gets there on time.

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