Zen and the Art
Co-parenting is an art, not a science. It takes a spiritual daily practice for some, and for others, well, it seems to come naturally. According to data in 2015 from the BGSU National Center for Family and Marriage Research, the U.S. divorce rate dropped three years in a row, reaching its lowest point in nearly 40 years. That’s progress! Marriage has been on the rise, and now, with the Marriage Equality Act, we are yielding new statistics every year. However, for those of us who fall under the divorce statistic, we’ve had to learn how to master co-parenting.
A few years after I had my daughter, I left my ex and became a single mom. I started watching my married friends closely. I realized, it’s not just us single parents who are co-parenting, they are too! They just happened to be married and co-parenting. Co-parenting describes a parenting situation where two parents (divorced, separated, two ships passing in the night (lol!) work together to raise a child even though they are not living together. The term is so widely used now that we are all co-parenting, married or not. In fact, I just read a post on FB from my friend, Bruce Summers, who praised his wife for being “the best part of co-parenting their beautiful daughters…”.
Co-parenting is work. Like any job, we have to put our egos aside (it’s just false pride, anyway), and listen to our partners’ or exes’ thoughts, ideas, wants and needs, while making sure our own thoughts, ideas, wants and needs are being heard too…and, all with love. It’s a balancing act and a test of our best communication skills.
Now you’re probably thinking, what about tense, difficult situations, like, how do I co-parent with someone (post-divorce) who I can’t get along with? According to Edward Kruk, Ph.D., Author and Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of British Columbia, parallel parenting is a good solution and starting point for parents in high conflict who are attempting to co-parent their children. Obviously, some interactions between you and your ex are going to be worse than others (there’s a reason you separated, right?). Parallel parenting is an arrangement where parents in high conflict agree to limited direct contact with one another, while remaining committed to making responsible decisions in their children’s best interest (e.g., medical, education, etc.), but decide on the logistics of day-to-day parenting separately. So try to disengage for a time. Different houses, different rules. Maintain boundaries by minimizing contact, and don’t react or engage in conflict. Keep your side of the street clean. Remember, you don’t have control over other people’s conduct, only your own.
I asked several friends what their top three co-parenting challenges were and three topics consistently surfaced: discipline, bedtime and food.
Elena Brower, mama, author, yogi has insight into the top three solutions for co-parenting challenges.
If you don’t agree on something, agree to compromise and talk it out. Be extra accommodating and choose what really matters. When something comes up that truly matters to you, because you’ve been accommodating, you might find that your co-parent is willing to compromise on your behalf.
If you’re the “bad” one here, and you’ve neglectfully disregarded the agreed upon bedtime, and your co-parent was very kind to remind you without “telling you what to do,” you will appreciate their example and the respect they have shown you. Respect your child’s other parent enough to just ask for what you want, respectfully, rather than pushing.
If your co-parent isn’t quite as selective as you are about food, or if you’re the one who prefers to feed your kid(s) snack foods, sit down like two adults and have a chat. Agree to disagree, offer respect and explain to the child(ren) that there are specific rules at each home, and both house rules are to be respected.
Brook Altman is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Prowdr.com. To learn more about how this extraordinary LGBTQ lifestyle website came into being, check out Welcome to Prowdr.
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