The Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Co-Parenting
Co-parenting is when parents devise a strategy to care for their child after divorce or separation. Unfortunately, there’s no manual to follow, so co-parenting often becomes challenging and exhausting. Sometimes even parents with good intentions make mistakes that hurt their kids and create many parenting issues.
This article will explore the top ten mistakes to avoid when co-parenting and provide helpful tips to handle various complications.
Ready to learn more? Let’s get into it.
What Mistakes to Avoid When Co-Parenting
All parents make poor choices sometimes, no matter how well-intentioned they are. Luckily, you can learn from someone else’s experience and avoid the most common co-parenting mistakes in the future, which include:
Making Your Child Choose Sides
Making a child pick a side between parents involves them in a parental conflict and adds confusion. In addition, it may cause some long-term emotional and psychological problems. For instance, children may feel they have lost their stability and feel anxious instead.
If you want to nurture your child’s safe and supportive environment, never ask them who they love more – you or the other parent. Also, never make them decide who was wrong in a particular situation.
Remember that your fights and grudges should not concern your children. Instead, exclude your kids from power battles with your former spouse and let them have a trouble-free childhood.
Related: Co-Parenting with a Narcissist: Coping and Protecting Your Children
Fighting with the Other Co-Parent in Front of Your Child
Sometimes you might disagree or verbally fight with your ex-partner, but shielding your kids from heated arguments is essential. Ideally, you and your ex should be on speaking terms and have neutral feelings about each other.
At the very least, be calm and respectful if you get into a disagreement in front of your kids. Keeping your emotions and adverse reactions under control will help you avoid conflict in the first place. Your rational behavior can become an excellent example for your children and save them from mental strain.
Not Following the Parental Agreement
Some examples of one parent not respecting the parental agreement after a divorce are:
- changing visitation schedule
- deciding child-related issues without consulting their ex
- not sharing critical information, such as traveling with the child abroad
- relocating and putting significant distance between the kids and the other parent
- neglecting financial responsibilities, etc.
Such behavior undermines the relationship between the co-parents and affects the child’s well-being. For instance, it increases conflict and hinders practical cooperation in child-related matters. In addition, failing to respect the post-divorce agreement can have legal implications, affecting the custodial and non-custodial parent’s rights and responsibilities.
Alienating Your Child from the Other Parent
The term “parental alienation,” coined in 1982 by psychiatrist Richard Gardner, means that one parent purposely tries to make the child reject the other parent by brainwashing them.
This situation can unfold if one co-parent convinces their kids to reject and despise the other parent. Also, they may interfere with the child’s contact with the other parent or restrict it to a minimum. It includes blocking messages, eavesdropping on phone calls, or convincing the child not to talk to the other parent.
Limiting visitation may not seem like a parenting mistake if you believe your child will be better off this way. However, such alienation is harmful because it disrupts the children’s bond with the other parent and can cause emotional distress. So, if you don’t have any other reasons for restricting your kids’ time with your ex, let them communicate according to the parental plan you’ve developed.
Related: Common Co-Parenting Issues and Fixes From a Family Lawyer
Turning Your Child into a Messenger or a Spy
Instead of talking directly with their ex-spouse, one parent may ask their children to pass messages. Unfortunately, it’s also not uncommon to make kids into spies and interrogate them about the other parent’s home life.
You’re mistaken if you think it’s a fun game for the children and a good source of information for you. The emotional price your kids will pay for your manipulation can be high, including distress, the feeling of enormous emotional burden, or neuroticism. If you don’t want your kid to cope with mental health problems, forget about using them as messengers and avoid these emotionally damaging mistakes.
Not Respecting Boundaries
Disrespecting boundaries comes in different forms. For example, one co-parent can ignore their ex’s personal space and time by constantly messaging or calling them to discuss topics unrelated to their kids. Some also cancel visitation or agreed arrangements without proper notice. Others discuss private matters concerning their ex with everyone, disrupting effective co-parenting.
These parenting mistakes have more to do with your relationship with your ex than your children. However, the resulting conflict between the co-parents will sooner or later affect the child and cause emotional distress or feelings of insecurity. So, be careful to respect boundaries and not let the other co-parent cross them.
Sharing Adult Details of Decisions with Your Children
It is unfair to share inappropriate information with your child, such as the divorce details or the other parent’s behavior. Such conversations put them in a difficult position and make them feel pressured, scared, and uncertain about their stability.
Remember that you’re not talking to an adult. Your child can’t understand all the connections between the events and make their own conclusions. Moreover, it’s not their place to comfort you or give advice. Instead, they deserve a carefree and healthy childhood free from negativity from their parents.
Related: Common Co-Parenting Issues and Fixes From a Family Lawyer
Saying Bad Things about the Child’s Other Parent
Saying mean things about the child’s mom or dad can hurt their feelings and image of themselves. In addition, such negative comments may cause them to doubt their value since they are connected to the other parent.
Children rely on both their parents for a sense of stability. Undermining the co-parent’s authority can erode that trust and disrupt the children’s security, making them feel frightened.
Studies also found that children held a parent who spoke badly about the other responsible for the divorce. So, instead of distancing from the criticized parent, the kids blamed the parent who made negative comments.
Not Prioritizing the Child’s Best Interests
You endanger your child’s welfare when you don’t prioritize their needs and wishes and pursue your selfish interests or personal agenda. This situation can involve the following:
- neglecting the child’s emotional and physical health
- ignoring their opinions or preferences
- placing them in the middle of adult conflicts
- undermining their relationship with another co-parent, etc.
Not putting the child’s needs first can be harmful to them. It can adversely affect their growth, happiness, and ability to handle the difficulties of divorce.
One frequent parenting mistake that is not always immediately apparent is forgetting your needs and neglecting to get enough rest. Looking after yourself is vital because it helps you stay positive and communicate better.
Ignoring self-care might make you irritable and defensive when talking to the other parent. As a result, it can lead to many arguments and difficulty finding joint solutions.
Self-care habits like physical exercise, rest, and breathing practices can boost your energy levels and enhance your resilience. Taking care of your mental and physical state will help you stay positive and handle co-parenting difficulties.
Taking on the shared co-parenting duties with your ex-partner is undoubtedly challenging, with many parenting mistakes on the way. But the chance to let your children grow up surrounded by love and emotional support from both co-parents is worth the effort.
Effective communication, clear rules, and respect for boundaries are essential to maintaining an effective co-parenting relationship. In addition, being open to learning from previous mistakes and preventing them in the future will create a strong base for stability and happiness for you and your child.
Guest Post by: Natalie Maximets
Natalie Maximets is a certified life transformation coach with expertise in sustainability and mindfulness. She helps people overcome life challenges and build a happier life.