By Abbie Engelhardt, R.N. for Lee’s Summit Physicians Group
Co-parenting can be hard. Very hard. When two people decide to have children together, they don’t plan on splitting up. But as we all know, it happens… a lot.
When families separate, it is rough. Tempers flare, fingers are pointed, etc. Parents must realize that the best interest of the children is all that’s important. They don’t deserve to be deflected on and caused to have emotional stress.
This hits home for me and my very own family.
We have been co-parenting for 4 years. Addilynn was 5 and Keenen was 2 when we separated. We’ve had many struggles, tears and some animosity. It’s a learning curve to say the least.
As much as their father and I don’t always see eye to eye, we make it work, most days. Things get better day by day. Relationships peak and trough. You have to ride the waves and act accordingly to what the situation requires.
One of the main rules of co-parenting is to never talk bad about the other parent to the children. Ever. To your children, you are so much of their life and make them who they are.
Be open and flexible with schedules and be willing to share them when it may not be your scheduled time. Yes, there are parenting plans with a lot of specific information, but there is no way on earth every detail can be listed. Pick your battles, decide what is important and what isn’t. What seems important to one parent may seem ridiculous to the other.
Find common ground and be respectful. Have empathy. Think about how the other parent feels during a situation and realize that they may handle them differently than you, and that’s ok!
ALWAYS communicate directly with the other parent. The kids should never be messengers. Both parents should share photos, grades, accomplishments with the other parent so they can both treasure the special moments. Remember, kids are the happiest when they feel free to express their feelings of love towards both parents even when they are no longer living under the same roof.
Remember you are ALWAYS a parent, even if they aren’t with you.
My kiddos are blessed to have a mom, dad, stepmom and future stepdad that love them to pieces. They have seen the transition from when their dad and I were barely cordial and having to meet in public places for exchanges to all of us working as a team to do what is best for them. They are healthy and thriving. And they have lots of people that love them. Unfortunately, not all families are this blessed to have healthy relationships like this.
Working in Pediatrics, we see the successes and shortcomings of co-parenting.
Negative co-parenting may alter the treatment plan your child may receive. Some parents will give a prescribed medication, but while at the other parent’s house, they may not get it. Therefore, a medication that could help them may not be prescribed since it wouldn’t be given consistently. This is just one example of negative effects.
Co-parenting is also linked with a child’s cognitive, socioemotional, and behavioral development. When children are exposed to positive co-parenting, they are less likely to show externalizing problem behaviors (e.g., aggression, hyperactivity, anxiety, depression), and they have better social skills.
Negative co-parenting is associated with increased problem behaviors, poorer social skills, and is negatively associated with a child’s cognitive development. Children who experience negative co-parenting also tend to have slower language development and struggle with emotion management. For the sake of the children, it is possible to overcome co-parenting challenges and develop a cordial working relationship with your ex.
The first step to becoming a mature, responsible co-parent is to always put your children’s needs ahead of your own.
Think about how your children feel about the situation and talk to them. They may be hurting. They may feel like it is their fault. Reassure them and do your best to be civil and not argue in front of them. Enjoy the Youtube video below.
If you find yourself in a co-parenting situation, just know that there are unlimited resources out there. You aren’t alone. A few are listed below.