Co-parenting can be incredibly complicated. After a divorce, learning to trust your child's other parent can feel like an uphill battle. You may still be dealing with the emotional fallout of your separation and struggling to separate your personal feelings for your former spouse and your new relationship as a co-parent.
You are not alone. Transitioning from being with your kids 100% of the time to only 50% of the time is emotionally difficult for everyone. However, this does not mean it will always be this way. Over time, as you grow into your new relationship as co-parents, things may improve. Though it may be a difficult process, there are steps you can take to work towards a more stable co-parenting relationship.
Keep reading for three things you can do to help establish trust in your co-parenting relationship.
Get on the Same Page
After a contentious divorce, you may dread having to speak with your ex. Discussions about parenting can be fraught, and different parenting styles are often cited as a contributing factor in divorce cases. However, having an open conversation with your child's other parent about parenting goals is an important first step. Getting on the same page regarding parenting can help you feel more comfortable when your children are with their other parent.
Often these discussions begin while you are still in divorce proceedings. You and your ex likely developed a parenting plan as part of your custody agreement. Though communication may be strained, especially in high-conflict situations, work to find a way to keep these conversations happening after your divorce is finalized. If something is not working, talk about it. And don't forget to celebrate the victories, too.
If you and your former partner cannot communicate in person or over the phone, look for other ways to establish an open line of communication. For example, email, text messaging, or co-parenting apps may help keep parenting discussions flowing while still giving you the emotional space you need.
One of the hardest parts of co-parenting is trusting that your former partner will follow through on what they say they will do. Even small things, like being late for a pickup, can chip away at the stability of your co-parenting relationship. While you cannot control what your child's other parent does, work hard to always follow through yourself and model the behavior you'd like to see in your co-parent.
It is important to remember that follow-through doesn't mean perfection. Things come up, and you or your ex may need flexibility and understanding. When issues arise, communicate with your child's other parent, and keep them in the loop. In this way, you can demonstrate that you are fully committed to your responsibilities as a co-parent.
Have a Plan for Conflict Resolution
Even in the best of circumstances, conflicts are going to happen. Parenting disputes have the potential to be incredibly emotional, and staying calm can be challenging. Having a plan for how you and your co-parent will resolve conflicts can help you deal with these issues when they arise. It can be easier to resolve problems if you can approach them as a team or as a family.
Avoid retaliation and focus on resolving the problem instead of "punishing" the other parent. Establishing a common goal and redirecting conversations back to this goal can help you and your co-parent stay focused. Outlining who is responsible for what parenting decisions can also help ease conflicts. For example, perhaps one parent will be given the ultimate say on educational decisions and the other on religious upbringing, while discipline and medical decisions will be made jointly. Alternatively, you may decide that all major decisions must be made together, while small, day-to-day issues are resolved by the parent who is currently with the child.
The same conflict resolution techniques won't work for all families, but consider the different ways you and your child's other parent can proactively plan for conflict resolution. If one method isn't working for you, work to find an alternative approach.
Don't Be Afraid to Seek Professional Help
However, working collaboratively to resolve problems is not possible for many people, especially in the early days after a divorce. Additionally, in situations where there has been abuse or domestic violence, collaborative problem solving may not be appropriate. If you're in a position where conflict resolution is incredibly difficult, don't be afraid to turn to professionals for help.
Depending on what the issue is, you may benefit from working with a mediator. Other co-parents have found that working with a therapist or family counsel helps them work through small disputes and communicate more effectively. Your lawyer is also a great resource when you have issues with custody, support, and visitation matters.