A wise move for both co-parents is to respect each other’s parenting time. Each parent is responsible for caring for children during his or her residential time.
It interferes with effective co-parenting when one parent makes plans for the kids during the other’s residential time, makes rules for or discipline to be carried out during the other co-parent’s residential time, or attempts to change the other co-parent’s residential schedule without agreement. Nine times out of ten, the other parent will push back, disappointment or conflict will ensue, and both co-parents will backslide into greater distrust and conflict. Kids lose another step toward stability and calm in their two-home life. Here are some tips for co-parents:
- Safeguard your coParenting relationship by 1) checking first, 2) discussing as needed, 3) confirming agreement, or respecting the lack of agreement. You and your coParent each have the right to say “no” and have the other accept your boundary gracefully.
- Plan activities for your residential time only and respect the other parent’s freedom to plan activities on his/her time. If activity schedules cut across both residential times, both parents agree first before involving children in discussions or enrollment.
- Be mindful that this is a business relationship of equals. Neither of you are in control of nor should you negatively impact the other’s scheduled time with the kids — this includes when you’re both with your children in public spaces.
- Respect each other’s independence in parenting. In divorce/separation both parents find their way into independent households, with rules, practices, and protocols independently deemed appropriate for each parent’s home. Children need love, discipline, connection, and structure for meeting the demands of daily life in each home. Parents don’t need to be in agreement on every aspect of the children’s daily lives as long as children are thriving, progressing through their developmental stages, and are safe and secure in each home.
- Both parents share in the work and play of caring for their children. No Disneyland parenting; no more “wait until your dad/mom gets home.” You may need to stretch and carry more “mom energy” when the kids are away from mom’s house; and “dad energy” when away from dad’s. That’s what is best for the kids. In practical terms, you may find that you have to be more nurturing, a little bit softer, more conscientious about safety; or, you may have to channel your inner-boss with more ease, or push yourself to be more adventurous— accepting your child’s occasional bumps and bruises that come from testing appropriate physical limits.
- Both parents create a positive plan for discipline and routines in each home — don’t rely on the other parent for discipline issues in your home.
- Both parents take individual responsibility for obtaining information from academic, recreational and social resources. You both want to be on all the emails from the “Little Bears Basketball” league, both know the password to your child’s academic website where teachers post grades and assignments, and both begin to develop a call list of your children’s friends’ parents to arrange play-dates and respond to birthday invitations during your residential time.
- Support your children’s peer relationships by maintaining contact and engagement, if possible and reasonable, across both parent’s residential time.
- Respect differences in parenting style or practices. You can discuss concerns but remember: it’s a discussion. If you two cannot agree, and it is not a safety concern, it may be best to accept the difference. A simple difference in parenting style will have less impact on your child than on-going conflict between the two of you. Choose your battles wisely. (Safety concerns may need intervention, and we encourage you to consult your child’s healthcare provider, your attorney, or the authorities depending on the level of concern).
Co-parents often provide different levels of attention to nutrition, TV or screen time, tidiness, and bedtime routines. As a mom told me recently, “He may be the mac-and-cheese dad; I just want him to be the best mac-and-cheese dad to our daughter he can be.” That’s acceptance.
Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Karen Bonnell’s book, THE CO-PARENTS’ HANDBOOK. For more information on Karen or her book, visit http://coachmediateconsult.com/co-parents-handbook/