Co-parenting with integrity. Does this sound like a stretch to you…or the answer you’ve been looking for? Every situation may be different when it comes to rules in separate homes, but the all-embracing goal should remain consistent: when parents can work together with a co-parenting plan, children reap healthy outcomes. Is this possible between you and your children’s mother? I believe it can be. Will it be easy? Not always—but because I also believe you love your children and would do whatever it takes for them to flourish, you are willing to make that effort.
The different styles of co-parenting
Pulling from my friend Tammy Daughtry’s book Co-Parenting Works! here are five examples of ways parents can (or won’t) work together and the effect it has on their children:
- Perfect Pals: High communication/high interaction (confusing to child because parents act like they are married but live in separate homes)
- Cooperative Colleagues: High communication/moderate interaction (ideal and best overall for child)
- Angry Associates: Low communication/moderate interaction (can be extremely tense and instill fear into child)
- Fiery Foes: Low communication/low interaction (extremely stressful for children because when parents do talk, it usually results in arguing)
- Dissolved Duos: No interaction or communication between parents (Parentification: the child may end up parenting the adult and not have their own needs met)
Where do you currently find yourself on this scope, and is there room for improvement? I once heard a great quote from Ron Deal, director of Family Life Blended: “Healthy co-parenting is separating what’s personal from what’s parental.” It’s hard to separate emotion from responsibility in this sort of situation. Still, when parents can put their differences aside for the greater good of their children, it creates a safe and secure environment for the children to thrive. That is an ideal circumstance, but not everyone has that luxury.
When co-parenting doesn’t seem to be an optionYou cannot change nor control the other parent, but you do have complete control of how you react.
It can be quite frustrating and infuriating when the other parent doesn’t want to work with you—especially in the beginning. It’s times like these when maintaining a calm spirit and sound mind is extremely important, for you and your children. Here are a few quick tips when times such as these arise.
- Keep your side of the street clean. You cannot change nor control the other parent, but you do have complete control of how you react. Kids can pick up on tension quite easily, so do your best to help them transition peacefully—even if it means making sacrifices along the way.
- Stay on topic. Set boundaries ahead of time so if or when you are caught off guard, you will be able to handle it in a civil and peaceful way. Stick to the game plan of co-parenting the parental portion, and protect yourself and your children by walking away from an argument before it begins.
- Fight well. If there is a court order in place, use it when necessary. Don’t bring up the past (i.e. “sling mud”), and meet at a neutral location and/or bring a third party with you. This isn’t meant to one up the other parent but is good wisdom to ensure the relationship with your children stays intact in a healthy manner.
Focusing on healthy co-parenting can be hard sometimes, especially when it’s not reciprocated. Hang in there and remember why you are doing it. Your decision to do so now will not only strengthen you as a father—but your children as well through the examples you set.
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “How do you interact with people who are hard to deal with?”