How to Co-Parent with Grace
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Co-parenting with grace and living in peace with the other parent of your children is possible. These 9 steps outline how to give grace and mercy freely while keeping your sanity and boundaries.
You probably never expected to find yourself in a situation where co-parenting, custody schedules and single parenting rule your life. And for all the stress it brings, there is a way to approach co-parenting with grace.
Although co-parenting may not be God’s number one desire, he desires that we live amongst everyone with as much peace as possible. Romans 12:18
The first step to living in peace, especially when it comes to those we are at odds with, is to give grace and mercy freely.
Related: Common Co-Parenting Pitfalls From a Family Lawyer
In this article, I cover 9 steps to co-parenting with grace as outlined below.
- Positive Attitude
- Your Children’s Needs
- Watch Your Mouth
- Keep an Open Mind
- Open Communication
- Lessen Control
- Let Things Go
- Children in the Middle
- Enforce Boundaries
At the end of the article, I’ve included an FAQ section for those of you who are struggling in difficult co-parenting relationships. I urge you to read through the other grace-filled suggestions first, asking God to show you how you can show grace to your child’s other parent.
Related: Co-Parenting with a Narcissist: Coping and Protecting Your Children
9 STEPS TO co-parenting with grace and kindness
Your thoughts determine your actions.
If you’re always complaining about your co-parenting situation to anyone who will listen and continuously thinking of all the negative aspects, it’ll be challenging to cultivate positive moments.
You may be thinking there aren’t any good parts of co-parenting with your ex. But that negativity is robbing you of positive moments with your child.
Related: You Aren’t Parenting Alone: How to Call on God For Help
Changing your thoughts around your situation doesn’t mean you need to make a list of positive characteristics of your ex. There may not be any that you can see – after all, you’re not together for a reason.
But choosing what you focus on is possible.
For example, if you find yourself thinking about your last disagreement and how upset it made you, then redirect your thoughts.
Or, if that’s too difficult, then write them down in a journal, document them, and put it away.
your children’s needs
Ask yourself, what is in the best interest of your children with each decision you make.
If you’re unable to do this without getting upset, have a trusted, Godly friend help you.
For example, if you find yourself wanting to punish the other parent at any time, maybe by keeping the kids longer or by not communicating, that’s a red flag.
Related: 8 Reasons to Stay as a Single Parent – You Don’t Need to Be Married
Most, if not all, kids want to be with both parents, regardless of the situation. That doesn’t mean you should take your child to an unsafe environment, especially if the court has sided with you. But assuming safe and loving care, your needs and wants can’t come first.
Other common excuses parents use to keep kids away from another parent that isn’t fair but is wrapped up in a nice-sounding explanation:
- Keeping the children with you on holidays because you’ll make it more special
- Your child complains when he comes home from his dad’s, so you decide it’s best to keep him home because you have activities for him.
- The other parent doesn’t help with homework, and your child has a lot of homework due tomorrow.
- Your child sick, and you want to take care of them
Related: Overview of the Best Co-Parenting Apps
Children need both parents and need both male and female role models – whenever possible. They also need to learn how to deal with different people and situations.
Try your best to put your feelings aside and help nurture their relationship with their other parent.
Don’t talk badly about your ex
Never speak ill of your child’s other parent in front of your children.
Prepare yourself now for the stories they’ll come home with that you’ll disagree with and possibly things your ex has said negatively about you to your children.
Don’t respond in kind.
Related: The Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Co-Parenting
As hard as it is not to defend yourself, you need to think through what you’re gaining by saying hurtful things back to your children about someone they love.
Bad mouthing your ex in front of your children has long-term effects on your children and can lead to psychological distress.
Instead, confront your ex in person if you can’t let it go or document the situation.
Keep an open mind
When your kids come home and tell you something happened at their dad’s, or you heard something from someone else that you’re sure was intentional against you, wait until you get all the information.
Related: What Your Kids Need From You After Divorce
First of all, children are terrible at relaying information. As smart as I’m sure your 5-year-old is, it’s probable he misunderstood.
Allow your ex to explain himself.
And listen openly.
To co-parent with grace, you’ll need to assume the best of the other parent.
Try to consider:
- Your ex has some good ideas worth considering.
- He isn’t trying to make you mad by his every move.
- Possibly his world doesn’t revolve around you anymore.
keep communication open
Continue to communicate with your ex even if you’re upset with him as long as you share children living under your roof.
Telling the other parent what’s going on with the schedule and the children is the number one priority.
If your ex is affected by a decision you make, involve him in the decision process.
Don’t withhold crucial information your ex needs to know about the children or their lifestyle.
Being open can be especially hard to do if you’ve been burned in the past. But continuing to play a nasty game over your kids won’t get either one of you anywhere.
If one of you deviates from the court agreement and it causes an argument, go back to your court agreement – whether that’s the custody schedule or any pre-divorce agreement.
Figure out how you best communicate with your ex and keep it that way. Don’t try to be extra nice or push boundaries once something starts working.
Lessen the Control
As women, we’re used to having control of situations, particularly where our children are concerned.
When we divorced or ended our relationship with the parent of our child, we lost any right to have control over him.
Related: How to Plan Meals as a Single Parent and Keep Your Sanity
This loss of control can be hard for many to let go of, and it can be a great source of conflict.
Ask yourself why you feel the need to control what your ex is doing and work through accepting the fact that your ex will handle situations differently than you, and you won’t like it.
It can be helpful to stop communicating with your children when they’re at their other parent’s house. If you know they’re physically safe, then putting the control back into God’s hands and letting your kids enjoy their time with their father is in everyone’s best interest.
Imagine for a moment how it would feel if your kids were always in contact and reporting back to their dad when they were with you?
Let things go
The list will be long of things your ex does that drive you crazy.
You can spend an enormous amount of time fighting over clothes lost between houses, discipline strategies, homework not completed, payment for extracurricular activities, and more.
In reality, some of these are things even married couples fight over. Add a couple of divorced parents, and tensions rise even more.
Letting some of these things go, is for your sake, not his.
If you can afford to pick up the cost of dance lessons or have the time to help the kids with homework, then deciding to do this yourself eases the tension off your shoulders.
It’s not about letting your ex off the hook; it’s about your peace.
don’t put your children in the middle
Regardless of their age, don’t ask your kids to pass to messages or money back and forth. Speak to the other parent face to face over essential conversations.
If texting doesn’t become a war, then try it. If you find texting becomes too tricky or communication gets lost, don’t engage via text.
If you absolutely cannot speak to your ex, ask a third party who loves your child to step in.
Related: How to Have an Enjoyable Single Parent Vacation
If you have a family member that is on good speaking terms with your ex or if your ex has a family member that you trust, ask them to help you two through this period.
Every healthy relationship has healthy boundaries. Don’t wait until you have issues in your co-parenting to enforce limits.
Some ground rules for co-parenting with grace and boundaries:
- Refuse to let the conversation turn into a verbal fight.
- You don’t need to share personal information.
- You have the right to end any conversation you aren’t comfortable with.
- Curbside drop-offs are acceptable.
- Conversations can take place there, as well.
- You don’t have to engage with your ex’s girlfriends.
- You don’t have to defend yourself.
- Don’t concern yourself with your ex’s response or what he thinks.
Common questions about How to Co-Parent Peacefully
- Does co-parenting get easier?
- It depends. Co-parenting certainly can get easier with time and as your kids get older. When you’re fresh out of a divorce or separation, and the younger your children are, typically, the harder it is.
- My ex is a narcissist. I can’t co-parent.
- You might need to seek professional help to ensure your child is safe and help you walk through issues your ex is pushing upon you. Additionally, you may need help setting firm boundaries. Because unless a court has ordered that your ex not have any contact with your kids, then you are still co-parenting even though it feels one-sided. A hard truth you’ll have to master is that you can’t control other people, only yourself. How you do that with your precious children involved will take time and guidance. Don’t be shy about reaching out for help from friends, the church, or counseling.
- My ex still tries to control me.
- You need to enforce stronger boundaries. See the boundaries section above. He will continue to control you as far as you let him.
- I can’t talk to my ex at all. How can I co-parent with no communication?
- Try some of the tactics mentioned above: enlisting a third party to communicate for you and curbside drop off. Also, stick directly to the custody schedule outlined in your divorce decree, and be careful not to deviate by asking for special favors and avoiding gatherings where your ex will be.