Your divorce might have been one of the toughest things you’ve ever gone through, and it’s finally done. And right away, a new challenge arises: how do you start co-parenting?
Where do you start? What needs to be decided? How do you approach the whole situation? How do you keep your peace of mind, while ensuring that your children grow up in a healthy environment?
First of all, if you feel overwhelmed, don’t worry - it’s perfectly normal.
Second of all, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s go through the process of starting to co-parent, step by step.
1) Invite payments
When anyone asks me whether they’re ready to co-parent, I always fire back with two questions -
- Have you put your emotions behind you?
- It isn’t going to be easy. Are you ready to put in the effort needed?
To be able to effectively co-parent, both of the parents have to have let go of any grudges, or at least have let go of the need to bring up the past. If not, you’re in for a toxic co-parenting relationship.
One of the staples of co-parenting is to never lose track of the goal - it’s not about the two of you, it’s all about your children.
If your ex keeps bringing up your mutual past, it may be a sign that they aren’t ready to co-parent. In this case, you should consider co-parenting counselling.
Co-parenting counselling is designed to help in these situations by working through your feelings, improving the communication, and picking up strategies that will help you manage the co-parenting relationship.
On the other hand, it’s very important that you understand that it will not be easy, you’ll need to put in a lot of effort. After all, the two of you just divorced and depending on your situation, getting on the same page may be very challenging.
Having said that, when you work through all this, establish that you’re ready, and start seeing the first effects of the co-parenting arrangement on your child, you’ll realize that it was all worth it.
2) Consider your child’s wants and needs
Before you get down to the details, it’s important for you to truly consider your child’s wants and needs. Always remember that you’re doing all of this because of them.
Cover the physical stuff - home, food, transportation, where their friends live, your work schedules, how far away their school is, where their doctor is, where their hobbies are, and anything else that may affect them significantly.
Also, cover the emotional needs - what their wishes are, where they feel better, how you can help them adapt to an additional household, how to best approach any issues that may arise, how the different parenting styles will affect them, etc.
Of course, consider any other elements that are significant to your specific family, as well as the history of the child’s behaviour. Finally, don’t forget to take their age into consideration when weighing their wishes.
3) Create your co-parenting agreement
It’s now time to get into the specifics.
Think of this as any other agreement you have signed in your life. The clearer you make the terms at this point, the easier it will be later on.
So, what should be in this agreement?
The important formalities - medical care, financials, school, school events, extra-curricular activities, sports, living situation, decision making process, transportation, hand-offs, acceptable ways and manner of communication and - very importantly - the rules.
Let’s clear this up right away - it is unrealistic to expect the rules in both households to be exactly the same. However, you and your co-parent should ensure that the basic set of rules is in sync so that your child knows what is expected from them.
Homework, curfews, forbidden activities, punishments, rewards, values, etc, are some of the things that would fall into this basic set of rules.
Once you have agreed on these main guidelines, you can be even more specific.
4) Create a co-parenting schedule
The shared calendar!
To start with, you’ll have to find a schedule that works for everyone. You can organize your time in various ways, but what is usually recommended as a starting point is a 50/50 split between the households, depending, of course, on your specific issues.
Whether that is a weekly or biweekly rotation, whether it is rotating every two days, or whether it is winter and summer holidays with the other parent because they live far away, it will depend on your individual situation.
Make sure that you also plan holidays, birthdays or anniversaries in advance. Days like those can easily become sources of great conflict, so best to get that out of the way at the start.
Find a calendar tool that works for you. If you’re asking me, I can wholeheartedly recommend the FamiliPay shared calendar. It’s incredibly easy to use and manage.
Additionally, FamiliPay is an all-in-one co-parenting tool so you’ll get access to features such as shared payments, communications intermediary, receipt and document storage, and more. Best of all, you’ll be able to store and deal with all the co-parenting stuff in one centralized place, and this is going to make your life significantly easier.
5) Cooperate, never lose track of your main goal
However much you prepare, conflicts will happen. And while you can’t avoid them, it’s important to remember to never lose track of your goal. Co-parent as a team.
Never talk badly about your co-parent in front of the children. Never ask children their opinion on your issues. Never make your child the messenger. Choose your words carefully. You can both be your child’s favorites, and so on.
Whenever a conflict arises, always backtrack and ask yourself whether it is about you or your child, because co-parenting is all about providing your child with a healthy upbringing with both parents present.
From there, you’ll find your way just fine. Having said that, I still wanted to offer a couple of pro tips.
Remain flexible, be understanding
Plan, plan, plan, but remain flexible.
Unpredictable events happen, both private and professional, so remain understanding, and stay ready to jump in when the need arises.
Talk to and support your co-parent in front of your children
When you talk about your co-parent in front of your children, please do so with respect.
Remember that your child loves both of their parents, and by openly showing your ex the respect, your child will grow to love both of you even more.
Additionally, support your co-parent. Consult them on decisions. In this way, you will build good rapport and ensure that your co-parenting relationship goes smoothly.
Trust your co-parent
You’re co-parenting with a grown up, trust them.
Don’t try to control them, even if that means they fail at something at some point. Remember that being supportive isn’t an equivalent to being codependent. Just like anything else, it’s a learning curve!
Be careful about introducing new partners
At some point, one of you is bound to find a new partner. In this case, just take it slow and give your child time.
Introduce your new partner as a friend. Don’t kiss, hug or have other PDA in front of your child. Introduce them during a fun activity without too much time for awkward silences.
After a while, the child will start to understand what’s going on and you’ll be happy you eased into it.
If your ex gets a new partner, never badmouth them in front of your child. Furthermore, never bother your child with questions about the new partner.
Never be afraid to search for or ask for help
There will be times where you feel lost. When this happens, don’t be afraid to ask a professional for help, or just Google it.
You’ll find many inspiring stories from other co-parents, or you can try our co-parenting tool - It was designed to make your co-parenting life easier.
Start your 3-month free trial now!