Let’s be realistic, being a divorcee has its challenges. Finances, transitions, future significant others, custody schedules, the list goes on and on. But if you focus on what we CAN do to “WIN” at being a co-parent, the typical challenges become less so. Check out these simple actions that can make all the difference for your children, yourself and your ex.
Be flexible with the schedule.
This is one of the easiest and most rewarding rules. Think of your custody schedule as what you use to keep everything consistent for your kids, but keep in mind that things come up and if you want flexibility when life happens to you, make it your priority to show your ex the flexibility you want back.
Never ever say anything negative about your co-parent in front of your kids.
This is a no-brainer and the most damaging thing you can do to your kids. It is non-negotiable. Never, ever say anything negative in front of your kids. That’s what friends are for or your therapist. This is their father or mother and the harm you can cause will be life-long.
Show up to every event, celebration, game, or concert.
Too many times, parents don’t show up to a concert or game because they don’t want to be around their ex. That’s just selfish. This is a public venue, nothing can happen to you, you’re an adult. Before you know it, the kids will be out of the house. They deserve to have both parents at their events.
Stand/sit in the same section as your co-parent.
This rule seems to be harder than giving up carbs, but it is crucial. Think of this, if your daughter is up to bat and gets to first base, she’s going to have about 4 seconds to scan the crowd for your face. Don’t make her have to look in two different places because you can’t even sit or stand in the same section as their other parent.
Have kids make Father’s Day/Mother’s Day/B-day cards for your co-parent.
Two things. One, you are teaching your kids that it’s important to acknowledge their parents and make them feel special. Two, it’s easy Co-Parenting ju-ju in the bank. Even if you never get a card for your day, you get to show your kids kindness and love for their other parent.
Send pics & videos to your co-parent.
Regardless of what happened between you and your ex, nothing is as painful as missing out on half of your kid’s life moments. Send them a quick video of your kids being silly or visiting a museum or making cookies. Text your ex some pics of your kids at the beach or on a rollercoaster. It’s thoughtful and kind and the easiest way to receive kindness (and pictures of your kids when you’re not with them) is to start the tradition with them.
No emotional/challenging discussions during work hours.
This is about respect. Getting a call/text/email about something you’re not doing right while you’re in the middle of a workday will throw anyone off. Be mindful that no Co-Parenting relationship is free of challenges, but be mindful about when to bring it up.
When you call/text your co-parent, ask if this is a good time to talk.
This is a tiny change that will make a big impact. This used to be someone you could call/text for anything you needed at any time. Now your ex has their own life and part of that life is about respecting their time. When you call your ex to talk about anything, schedule, kid issue, or question, start with, “Is this a good time to talk?”
CC your co-parent on all teacher, coach, and doctor emails.
One of the yuckiest issues as a Co-Parent is feeling left out of your kid’s life. Make it a habit to always cc your ex on all emails to teachers, therapists, or doctors. It will let your Co-Parent feel included and it is also crucial to keep a paper trail.
Tell your kids funny stories about their parent.
Your kids have no one to tell them stories about their mom or dad and you know lots of them. Put your old feelings aside and let your kids see their other parent in a different light. It will cut the tension for your kids and they will feel the love you have for their other parent. If your kids mention a story to their other parent, bonus points.
Make sure that whoever you are dating or allow in your children’s lives understands your kids come first and your co-parenting relationship is not to be messed with.
No other subject can cause as much drama as who you bring into your children’s lives. And everyone deserves a love life, but protecting your Co-Parenting relationship is the key to your kids experiencing drama-free interactions with your new partner. Be courageous enough to let whoever you are dating to know that you get along with your Co-Parent, you show up for each other and this is what is best for your kids. If they have an issue, say, “Bye, bye,” you just dodged a bullet.
Make sure your kids have everything they need at their other parent’s house.
While we can’t make our homes carbon copies of each other’s what we need to ensure is that your kids have everything they need at both homes. Sweatshirts, jammies, pants, socks, these items are not yours, they’re your kid’s and they need to feel like both parents have everything they need so they don’t have to worry their clothes don’t fit at their dad’s house.
Throw away your scorecard.
Here’s the deal, no one is keeping score and no one cares who did what and who showed up late and who forgot to call the dentist. The scorecards only cause tension and will never bring you and your Co-Parent to a place where you can take care of the kids without throwing your anger or pettiness in their face.
Get help to let go of your old baggage.
The biggest obstacle to winning at Co-Parenting is your resentments about the past. The truth is, it’s over, at least as a couple, and it doesn’t actually matter who did what and what happened in your marriage. All that matters is how you show up for your kids and how you role model kindness and respect. You have complete control over how your kids will think of their childhood and while this is not how you hoped the story would go, it is your reality. Work with a Co-Parenting coach or a therapist to get rid of what’s blocking you from moving forward.
Create traditions with your blended families.
Just because you live in two different homes, doesn’t mean your kids should never experience time with their two favorite people in the same space. Consider making some special traditions as the new family you are. Go for ice cream after the soccer match, do a monthly dinner with the OG (original family crew), have birthday dinners with both parents.
Respect your co-parent’s parenting.
What happens in Vegas…Use the same rule for dad’s/mom’s house. Different house, different rules. Unless your ex is harming your kids, let go of the micro-managing and trust that your Co-Parent is doing their best. No kid will die from too much digital time at dad’s or a late bedtime at mom’s. Not worth the fight.
Include your co-parent in the big decisions.
One of the big fears and easiest way to create new resentments is to leave out your Co-Parent of their parenting rights. Show your ex you trust and respect them enough by counseling them for big decisions (class placements, camp options, extra-curricular activities), both parents should have a say. This creates a feeling of a team raising the kids.
Ask yourself how you would want to be approached if the tables were turned.
This is a really great tool when you don’t know how to handle any situation with your ex. It’s easy to want to withhold because of something that didn’t go your way with your Co-Parent. Instead, try and ask yourself, “How would I want to be approached if the tables were turned?”
Make sure your kid’s back and forth bag has what it needs before the transition time.
Your kids didn’t ask for this and regardless of how well you Co-Parent together, they deserve to have their essentials at both houses. Their laptop cord, favorite bunny, medication needs to be in their transition bag. Transitions are hard enough on the kids and the other parent, make sure they have what they need for their time at their other parent’s house. And if you forget something, because you will be kind and bring it over.
Remember they are the other half of your children.
At one time, this was someone you thought you would spend the rest of your life with. When you struggle with Co-Parenting, remember that your children, whom you love more than anyone on earth, are half of your ex.
To hear more from Carly, check out her podcast, In Your Corner Divorce, where she has professionals and divorcees focusing on the most important thing, the kids, the Northstar. Carly Israel is a Co-Parenting coach, (virtual only) who helps parents focus on what matters most. Her memoir, Seconds and Inches, dives deep into her journey and is available via audible (with her narrating), paperback, and digital.
Co-Parenting Coach at In Your Corner Divorce, published author, Seconds & Inches: A memoir, Huffington Post contributor, host of two podcasts: In Your Corner Divorce & Northstar Big Book. Mother of three wild boys, sober warrior, and beautiful mess.
As a Co-parenting coach, I offer an approach to divorce that could change the landscape of divorce for generations to come.
Education/Training: Masters of Education & Certified Licensed Life Coach