Co-parenting always comes down to one thing: What’s in the best interest of your children. The ultimate goal is a long-lasting, sustainable partnership. As for co-parenting in 2021? Add the stress and uncertainty of a pandemic.
Despite the nuances of your co-parenting dynamic and/or the state of the world, successful co-parenting can be achieved, and the importance cannot be overstated. Children are better able to process the changes that are happening at home, and in the world, when they see both parents working together.
Children feel more secure when a framework of respect and decency remains intact between their parents. Children rely on you to set a good example, and respectful communication with their other parent reinforces cooperation and kindness. Understandably, you may not be there yet, but remember to give yourself credit (and grace) along the way and know that there are resources to help you create your new normal.
Best Co-Parenting Practices (In General)
- Detach: It may be challenging, but the ultimate goal is to accept your new roles within each other’s lives. A helpful step is working toward a less emotional association with your co-parent; refer to them as exactly that, your co-parent, not your ex-spouse.
- Eliminate Emotion from Conversation: It’s important to remember that past relationship transgressions aren’t relevant while co-parenting your children now. Your top priority must be advocating for your children, and that will always require looking forward, not behind you. If you’re feeling angry or defensive, take a step back to collect your thoughts before engaging or responding.
- Ask Questions Before Making Accusations: If you find yourself making “You never” or “You always,” statements, shift your focus back to the task at hand: communicating effectively in the best interest of your children.
- Use Appropriate Outlets to Cope: Therapy, journaling, talking with a trusted friend… you must find a workable solution to ensure you’re not entangling children in any co-parenting troubles. It is unhealthy and unproductive to speak badly of the other parent, and frankly unacceptable as far as the court is concerned.
- If You’re Still Struggling, Remember to Keep Conversation BIFF:
- Brief:Only talk about co-parenting matters.
- Informative:Include times, dates, and important details for pickups, activities, etc.
- Friendly: Take a deep breath and keep hostility in check.
- Firm: Insist, and then maintain only speaking about matters that concern your children.
You may benefit from a co-parenting app which logs communication and additionally has shared features to manage appointments, calendars, etc. with regularity. Remember that communication can be subject to scrutiny and respectful exchanges are important to successful co-parenting.
Critical Co-Parenting Practices (During Covid-19)
- Acknowledge and Understand: Children are witnessing deeply stressed parents and also confronting feelings of isolation as they lack critical time with their peers.
- Normalize Uncertainty: Reassure children it’s normal to be having a hard time with Covid-19. It’s okay to share that this is a historically hard time foreverybody, while reassuring them that this will pass.
- Work Together and Avoid Placing Blame: Both parents should be monitoring children for signs of distress, such as moodiness, changes to appetite and sleep, and withdrawing from others. Experts also remind parents to keep an eye on their children’s behavior whether or not they have expressed they’re struggling. Remember to check in often and keep a consistent message of hopefulness (even if you’re faking it some days).
- Embrace Technology (While Navigating Moderation): Social and emotional connections are vital for children. While each household may have different rules, there’s value in exploring ways to help keep children connected, while they’re physically distanced.
- Know When Help Is Needed: If there is an active crisis, call 911. If not a crisis, start with your pediatrician who should be able to steer you toward resources for help.