The Fundamentals Of Co-Parenting
Parents and guardians come in all shapes and sizes, with the common link between them being the love and care they show for their kids. While once upon a time, most kids would have been raised in a ‘nuclear household’ consisting of two parents and their children, in the 21st century, this is no longer necessarily the case.
If you’re raising a newborn, toddler, child or teenager with a former partner, there are a few strategies you can keep in mind to help ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.
What Are Co-Parents?
Co-parent is a term used to describe two adults involved in raising their children following a separation or divorce. Typically, the use of the word ‘co-parents’ indicates the two play an equally active role rather than one taking on the bulk of the responsibilities.
Co-parenting in the face of a relationship breakdown can be difficult, and it’s often tricky to get the practicalities of this arrangement down pat. While it is not always easy to establish a co-parenting rhythm, many experts suggest that having both parents involved in a child’s life can be of great benefit to their well-being, meaning it can be well worth the effort.
What Is Co-Parenting?
From a practical standpoint, co-parenting often works best by establishing a plan that addresses your child’s needs, which will differ depending on their age.
The plan can cover the following:
- Visiting schedule
- Education decisions
- Medical concerns
- Holiday schedules
- Strategies for conflict resolution
The key to co-parenting is communication. Raising kids is hard work at the best of times, let alone when you’re doing so with a former partner. Many co-parents find that introducing a mediator into the arrangements, like a family dispute resolution practitioner or a relationship counsellor, can help keep communication channels open and friendly.
How to Co-Parent a Newborn
Co-parenting a newborn comes with additional challenges, given the unique needs of a young bub. Newborns are quick to form attachments, so you want to ensure your little one has equal time with both parents to help create healthy relationships.
If your child hasn’t been born yet and you already know you will be co-parenting, now is the time to start having these important discussions about how the parenting arrangement is going to work. Things that you will need to consider include feeding schedules, visitation hours, and how both parents will ensure their home is a safe and welcoming environment for the baby.
Small things, like making sure you have all the essentials to keep you and your child happy, healthy, and clean (including a Spewy™ and bed mat!), will go a long way to providing a sense of continuity across two separate homes.
What Co-Parenting Mistakes Should You Avoid?
Co-parenting is a journey. While you’ll no doubt make mistakes along the way, focus on learning from them and always making the happiness and health of your kids the top priority.
When you’re a parent, no two days are the same. Flexibility is certainly important, even more so when you’re co-parenting and will have to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. Being too rigid or inflexible is a trap that is easy to fall into and, ultimately, doesn’t help anyone.
Co-parents will also need to accept that their child’s other parent will likely have a different parenting style. This is particularly true as your kid gets a little older, and more decisions need to be made about things like bedtime and what’s in their school lunchbox.
Finally, co-parents should avoid a situation where their child feels like there’s strong animosity between them and their ex-partner. This can be difficult to achieve, but the last thing you want is for your kids to feel like they’re stuck in the middle of an unpleasant relationship.
Parenting comes with its ups and downs — by simply acknowledging this and recognising challenging circumstances for what they are, the ebbs and flows can be a little easier to navigate.
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