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The Key to Co-Parenting

They say that it is “easier to build up a child than it is to repair an adult” and certainly, they are correct. No one knows exactly who they are, but in this case, child psychologists would be a good guess.  Building up a child? They mean parenting, right? Well, yes, but it is that and so much more. However, parenting is a major factor and the one we will be focusing on.

Parenting is defined as, “the rearing of a child, especially to care, love, and guide”. Parenting sounds easy on paper, sort of like having a cat. Just feed him, love him, and give him space to sleep. We all know, however, that parenting is not like owning a cat, unless your cat is Garfield, and then, maybe that comparison would almost be believable.

Parenting for most, a is beautiful mixture of emotions. From overwhelming love, excitement, and pride to anxiety, chaos, and humility, just to name a few.  Being a parent is wonderful but can be difficult because our children are tiny versions of us, and let’s be real, we are not always little rays of sunshine! They want what they want, they want to do what they want, they say the craziest things, and they keep us up all night. The thing about parenting that is so strange is that those are the same things that make us laugh and love them even more. Maybe except for keeping us up all night, but I digress. Yes, parenting is an enigma that will forever be one of the most amazing parts of being human.

The thing about being a parent though, is that usually involves two people and while two parents are a good thing, co-parenting can be tricky. Co-parenting happens when two people or even two sets of people, are raising the same child(ren). Usually, after a relationship, of some sort, comes to an end. In a perfect world, co-parenting would be a breeze and there would be no reason for a blog post about it. However, going back to the human thing, that is not the case. Most often, co parenting takes a lot of effort to make it work effectively. Break ups are hard; emotions run strong while logic seems to take a seat and grab some popcorn. Many times, the personal investments are uneven which leads to bitterness, anger, and hostility by one party toward the other. This results in break down of communication and jealousy when new partners enter the picture. Suddenly, the other parent’s style of child rearing is grating at your nerves.

Have you ever just wished that it didn’t have to be that way? Guess what, it doesn’t! Easier said than done, for sure, but the following are some tips on how you can implement a co-parenting relationship that will help to “build up” your child. There is nothing wrong with raising a child separately, but it is a must to do it together.

First things first, drop the past. It doesn’t matter what happened to whom or when. The issue now is the child(ren). Put all else aside.

Second, communicate. COMMUNICATE. Yep, yelling it! This is so very important. Communication can be very taxing, but it is necessary. Communicate only information regarding the child(ren). The co-parent does not need to know that you have a hot date Friday night. That is not what we are talking about here. Inform each other of important dates, school and sports activities, the child’s dreams, desires, etc. It is so important that both parents know everything there is to know about the child. Discuss things like religion, parenting styles, and expectations now that the child has two homes. You read that right; your child has two homes. Your child does not see co-parents your child sees PARENTS. The third thing successful co-parents do is to compromise. If one parent has a certain style and the other has a different style, that is OK. Communicate expectations regarding rules like bedtime, food the child should and shouldn’t eat, people the child should and shouldn’t be around and then compromise so that both child’s households are consistent. The most important thing co-parents can do is to work together. Don ‘t talk badly of the child’s other parent or family in front of the child. Remember that your child shares DNA of, and characteristics with, the other parent. If you speak badly of the other, it can and does have negative impacts on your child’s self-esteem. Try to pick out something good about the other parent, that way, if your child sees those characteristics in him or herself, they feel good.   Don’t argue about differences in front of your child. If parents are working together with their child’s well being at the forefront of their thoughts and actions, it makes co-parenting so much easier.  Perfection? No. Happiness, very likely.

By following these suggestions, you are more likely to “build up” a child rather than repair an adult.  Co-parents can contact a mediator, visit a counselor, or take online co-parenting classes to help them get started. Co-parenting is not easy, but worth it!

By Michelle Wills

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