I'm Marcie Shaoul, Director of The Co-Parent Way and I work with separated parents to enable them to communicate effectively so they can bring up their children together. I've put together a list of five things you didn't know about co-parenting and one you probably do.
Let’s start with the one you probably do. Co-parenting might be the best thing you ever do for your children post-divorce. But it will also be the hardest. You may get used to it, but it probably won’t feel particularly easy.
Time can be a great healer, and whilst you may be able to be around your ex and have a conversation with them, saying goodbye to your child won’t ever be a nice thing to do. Yes, you can have time on your own and do all the things you have on your bucket list (money dependent), but most likely, like the majority of parents, you didn’t sign up to have children part-time. Seeing them going off to their other parent hurts.
Five things you didn't know about co-parenting
Here are a few insights to help you along your co-parenting journey.
1. Co-parenting is effectively a business relationship
When we work with people to become better co-parents, we’re not trying to get them back together or even help them become friends. We’re teaching them the techniques they need to be business partners. And the business they need to look after is the children. If you can rethink your approach to parenting with an ex, to something that is not emotional and purely transactional then you’ll be well on the way to effective co-parenting. If you can be polite and respectful during these business-like conversations then that’s even better.
“Co-parenting is the ideal state between two separated parents. It is when both parents can put their children front and centre and communicate effectively about them. Co-parenting provides a safe parental bubble in which children can grow up secure in the knowledge that their parents will work together, even though they are no longer in a relationship.” - Marcie Shaoul, The Co-parent Way
2. Co-parenting doesn’t mean you’re letting your ex ‘win’
Being a co-parent means that we need to let go of this idea of ‘winning’ over our ex. The idea of winning or losing when it’s your child’s wellbeing at stake means that whatever victories you may feel you gain over your co-parent, your child will always be the loser.
By engaging in competitive parenting, you’re not putting your child front and centre. And when you’re not doing that, you’re not being fully present as a parent. We know it’s hard when there are lots of strong emotions swirling about. We know it’s hard when the trust has gone. We know it’s hard to be civil and collaborative when you feel as though your ex may not be. But think forward. Think 20 years into the future and imagine what kind of relationship you want with your child. Whatever you need to do now to secure it, competitive parenting probably isn’t it.
3. Conflict damages your children
There are situations where it’s not always possible to co-parent, however, there has been extensive research over the years, and some very recently by the Family Solutions Group, showing clearly that children who experience ongoing parental conflict that is not resolved, take a significant hit to their long-term mental health. Think of it like this. You would do anything to protect your child’s physical health? It should be the same with their mental health. By nurturing a good relationship with your co-parent, and reducing any conflict in the process, research shows your children will be less negatively impacted by your separation.
4. Your ex doesn’t need to know about your life
At The Co-Parent Way, this is one of the favourite parts of the learning. When parents realise that they don’t need to share private information about their personal lives with their ex, just because they are co-parents. It can be a real game-changer. Having boundaries and agreed parameters of the things you do talk about, also means you can agree on the things you won’t talk about. Your children are your focus. And by not focussing on your ex, you free yourself up to live your own life.
5. And that brings me to my final point
Co-parenting isn’t just about your children. It’s about you. You need to make sure you have a fully, resilient and happy life to lead so you can be the best parent possible for your children and so you can enjoy your life. After separation, this can be a struggle for many parents. Remembering who they are, and enjoying their time as an adult when the kids go to the other house can be hard. And if you are struggling, get some coaching to help build the life you want. Finding the positive and the opportunity in your co-parenting situation can be a real game-changer for everyone involved.