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Navigating the intricacies of co-parenting can be a huge challenge for families. Shifting to two separate homes is a significant change in the family dynamic that can be hard for everyone, especially children. That’s why fostering a safe and harmonious environment for your child in both homes is crucial.
You must establish transparent and fair ground rules. These shared rules help children easily transition to their new life and seamlessly move between the two households.
Here’s how to set co-parenting ground rules that both parents can follow.
Maintain Focus on Your Child
Divorce is tough on couples, but it’s also tough on kids. Right now, your child needs support from both parents. When you co-parent, your focus should be on the happiness and well-being of the children. Both parents must leave behind any baggage or resentment for each other and prioritize what’s best for the child. It’s essential to treat each other civilly and with basic respect.
Effective co-parenting involves open and constant communication with each other. The two of you need to be a strong team, which includes discussing many topics concerning your child. Schedules, changes, important events, medical information, and school matters are just some topics you must discuss.
You must keep your lines open and communicate calmly and respectfully. Some parents find it easier to talk in a businesslike manner. That way, they can set aside their feelings and focus on the matters.
No matter what you do, do not make your child the messenger between you and your ex. Don’t show passive-aggressive behavior that puts your child in a tough spot. All communication should be between the parents, and you must commit to that plan, even if it’s difficult at first.
Create a Unified Schedule
Splitting homes is a considerable disruption in your child’s life. Kids need a sense of consistency and normalcy to thrive, so you must establish a clear custody schedule that both parties agree upon. Doing so can also avoid conflict and confusion between you and the other parent.
The schedule should detail the days and time the child spends with each parent. Ideally, you should have a shared calendar that you can update in real time in case of any changes or additional schedules. Ensure the calendar is visible in both homes so the child can keep track of their schedule.
Pay Attention to Health and Safety
Your child’s health and safety should be paramount. Both parents should discuss all safety matters for each house, which should be modified to fit your child’s needs. For instance, if your child is deathly allergic to peanuts, neither home should have any peanut products inside. If your child has a health condition, both houses should have the necessary medicines and medical equipment ready.
Your homes should also be safe and kid-friendly. There are many things in a house that can accidentally harm your child. If your kid is still young, consider investing in child gates and corner guards for furniture. You should also check other equipment in the house. For instance, garage doors cause 30,000 accidents a year, with most of those injuries sustained by children. Ensure that all equipment and machinery are safe and well-maintained.
Be United in Parenting
Co-parents must commit to being united. While “united” doesn’t necessarily mean you both need to enforce the same rules, your house rules shouldn’t be too different to avoid jarring your child every time they visit. For example, one house can’t have an 8:00 PM bedtime while the other has none. Bedtimes should be discussed and agreed upon by both parents.
Discipline is another area where parents must unite. Parents should resist the temptation to be the “fun” or “more likable” parent. If a parent punishes a child by limiting their screen time, the other parent must respect that decision and continue the punishment at home. Yes, your child might like you more in the moment if you give them their iPad against your ex’s wishes. However, doing so can affect your child in the long run and ruin trust between the two households.
Make Important Decisions Together
When it comes to big decisions, both parents must be involved. You shouldn’t make decisions about significant changes on your own. Remember that you and the other parent are a team, so you should get a say in significant aspects of your child’s life.
For instance, you should discuss where your child goes to school. If your child needs extra tutoring, both parents must know and decide what actions to take. Also, if your child experiences any medical issues, you shouldn’t keep it to yourself. Your ex should also get a say about any medical interventions your child receives.
Encourage a Positive Relationship
Divorces can be messy. However, you shouldn’t let that affect your co-parenting. Instead, you should encourage a good relationship between your child and your ex. After all, even if your ex might have been a lousy partner, they can be a good parent. Refrain from badmouthing your ex to your child. Don’t refer to them using derogatory names. Instead, simply use “mom” or “dad.”
Additionally, don’t try to ruin your child’s perception of your ex. For instance, if your ex fails to make a promise and your child is heartbroken, don’t stoke the fires by feeding them more negative information. Instead, encourage your child to learn forgiveness and understanding — within reason.
Creating a Balanced Co-Parenting Environment
Establishing ground rules offers the stability your child needs. Together, you can create rules that both households follow with respectful communication and collaboration. The most important thing is to center your child’s needs in all your decisions.