There’s no problem that has not already been solved.
According to research, co-parenting is crucial for a child's mental health and helps create harmony following divorce. However, raising children with an ex-spouse after a divorce is by no means straightforward or unproblematic.
Additionally, co-parenting can also be extremely difficult to accomplish, especially if there were a lot of disagreements and court battles during the divorce process. As a result, many parents may find it, even more, challenging to navigate parenthood following a divorce.
With that in mind, in this article, we'll explore the six most common challenges you will face if you and your ex-partner decide to co-parent.
1. Parenting time.
I recall early on in my co-parenting journey my ex and I kept arguing about my son’s schedule. We were able to calm down when I pointed out that we actually wanted the same thing. In fact, we were allies, not enemies. Allies supporting our son to have a meaningful experience with both parents.
Whenever possible, have a plan in place where each parent will spend roughly the same amount of time with the kids post-divorce, just as they did prior to your marriage ending. You should also keep in mind that your child's time at school and extracurricular activities don’t count as “parenting time.”
To help prevent arguments, create a formal parenting plan that contains a consistent schedule for the child. This predictability is very helpful for the child as it can reduce any anxiety transitioning from home to home. It also wouldn’t hurt to update this plan every year or two as schedules are likely to change for both the parents and children.
Additionally, don't give all the hard tasks to one parent, while the other gets to enjoy leisure time with their child. For example, both parents should spend an equal amount of time helping their children with their homework. Also, be sure to ask your children what they need. These are hard conversations to have. But, this can help you and your child navigate two having two homes.
Considering that money is a leading marital conflict, you can imagine that this only becomes more continuous because of topics like child support.
In many families, child support is considered a one-time affair. However, new expenses will always come up. No matter what the reason, whether it's a medical emergency or changing costs of raising children, income will have to be adjusted accordingly. And, this will definitely affect child support payments. It’s very important to work this out in court to minimize future conflicts and both parents are recommended to follow the order as stated.
If you and your ex seem to argue more and more about child support, remember that either parent can ask the court for a review if circumstances have changed or needs have changed. However, some states limit how frequently child support orders can be reviewed. So you may need to check child support guidelines for your state for details as to how to request a modification of child support.
Badmouthing the other parent is a surefire way to fuel conflict. I have seen it happen again and again in co-parenting relationships. Although emotions run high it is very important to refrain from talking badly about the other parent, especially in front of your child(ren).
“When you put down their other parent, your children are likely to interpret it as a put-down of part of them,” Rosalind Sedacca, founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, told HuffPost. “When both parents are guilty of this behavior, it can create a sense of unworthiness and low self-esteem. It makes them question how much they can trust you and your opinions ― or trust themselves.”
“When you have a problem with your ex, take it directly to them, and not to or through the children,” adds Sedacca. “Keep conscious diligence on your commentary and your ex is more likely to follow suit as well. If he or she doesn’t, your kids will naturally pick up on the different energy and gravitate toward the parent taking the high road.”
4. Respect different parenting styles.
There have been many circumstances over the years when I may not agree fully with my ex’s parenting decisions. In the end, though. I support it nonetheless to maintain consistency for our son.
It can be challenging to co-parent when you and your ex-spouse aren’t on the same page when it comes to parenting styles. Perhaps you prefer orderly, rule-based regimens. But your ex is more laid-back and likes to go with the flow. When it feels like your ex is constantly undermining all of your efforts and structure, it can be extremely aggravating -- to say the least.
One strategy to resolve this issue would be to put the important items in the divorce agreement. During the divorce process, be sure that bedtimes, homework schedules, and disciplinary rules are discussed and agreed to by all parties. Believe it or not, your ex and you will be more likely to respect each other’s boundaries if you put them into your divorce agreement. If you have a settled divorce agreement but are still struggling you can seek out a mediator, co-parenting counselor, or parent coordinator to resolve these matters.
5. Medical decisions
While you can protect your child as much as humanly possible, there will be times when a medical decision has to be made. Sometimes, this could be a seemingly small event, such as your ex giving your child Tylenol because they had a fever. But, because they didn’t tell you this when it happened, you may unreasonably distrust the other parent. In this case, you may have to lighten up and work with a therapist to address why this bothered you so much.
There are, however, times when serious medical decisions must be made and your child is in the care of your other parent. In these moments you have to deflect to medical professionals and ask the other parent to keep open communication.
6. Extracurricular activities
What if your ex encourages your son to play football, but you’re adamantly against it? Or, maybe you want your daughter to pick up playing the guitar, but your ex doesn’t want to spend the money helping you cover the cost of the equipment and classes?
These differing opinions leave your child in the crosshairs. It’s important to meet together with your child to avoid splitting or one parent coaching your child, etc. Meeting altogether can increase understanding of the other parent and child if you can listen non-defensively.
If communications with your ex become too conflictual, seek the assistance of a mediator to resolve your disagreements.
When it’s just the two of you communicating with each other, use clear “I” messages with supporting evidence to what you are proposing. And, always be ready to compromise. The best agreements are when everyone gives a little.