What is Co-Parenting? How do You Make Co-Parenting Work for You?

Successful co-parenting

You will have few raw emotions in life that match the heights of those you experience going through a divorce. If you have children, you are trying to work out a co-parenting plan with your ex-spouse for they may be even more intense. At Galbraith Family Law we see all kinds of divorce cases and separation issues along with nearly every question imaginable. The most important question we might get is how I co-parent my children with my ex successfully.

In short, it is not an easy or simple thing. Emotions run high. You are tempted to reply to your spouse in the heat of the moment. You might feel overwhelmed. Angry, frustrated, and at your wit’s end when it comes to managing communications with your spouse, your children’s schedules, or feelings.

Know that you are doing your best. There is no right or wrong answer and taking it one day, or even one moment at a time is ok.

You’ve heard the term co-parenting as it’s been popularized in family law over the past few years.

What does it mean? 

Co-Parenting is a parenting arrangement where both spouses actively participate in the lives of the children. It is a structured parenting plan post-divorce that is the premise of how you plan to have joint interaction.

To help you create your own co-parenting strategy these are a few keys to success we have learned having worked with many families through divorce or separation.

Get outside help if needed.

If your relationship with your spouse post-divorce is amicable, that is a big win. If you’re able to take a level-headed approach when creating your co-parenting plan, you might not need outside help to get started. However, if communications with your spouse after a divorce or going through your separation is shaky at best, look to a professional for help. A mediator, family counsellor or family specialist is often a good investment when conflict is a concern. Someone that has ample experience in helping families co-parent after divorce will have a game plan you can work from. They will also have solutions to recommend when issues do arise. Having a professional can also help alleviate stress, calm tempers in the moment and keep you focused on what is best for the children. Which is the most important part.

Create a solid sense of security for your child or children.

After a divorce or going through a separation we experience a multitude of emotions. Those emotions are yours and you have a right to express and process them. Seeing your emotions run high though, is something that can make our children scared. It can make them worry. Where will they end up after the divorce. Who will they live with? Will they or will they not see Mom or Dad again or how often. If you are upset, it is ok to talk to your children about why. Try to help them understand the emotions. However, it might be even more important to not involve your children in the details. A child can easily feel or sense instability or lose their sense of security during this time. Whenever possible reassure them that they are not the reason for the divorce. That they did not cause your relationship to break down. That you and your spouse will do everything you can to keep them safe. When a child is confident about the love they have from both parents, they will adjust more easily. To new living situations, new schedules and will have better self-esteem and a sense of security long term.

Put your anger aside along with your hurt.

It is true. After divorce, you might feel hurt, or angry but good decisions are never made while emotions are raging. To work cooperatively with your spouse to create a successful co-parenting plan, you must take the emotion out of it. You also should never vent to your children about why you are angry with their mother or father. Venting to your children is different than explaining the emotion to them. And they should never feel that they are stuck in the middle. If you feel emotions boil over during a conversation about your co-parenting plan, ask for a pause. Take a break so you can cool off and continue once you have had a chance to collect yourself.

Deal with your agreement as you would a business decision. 

If we change our perspective from emotionally reactive to a business arrangement, things seem easier. You may have heard the phrase, changing your perspective, changes the outcome. Often, that’s true! Think of your children’s needs as the needs of your client, colleague, or boss. Speak or write communications to your spouse with respect, and in a neutral tone of voice. Talk slowly, and clearly as you would if you were asking someone to do something for you in detail. Instead of making statements, make requests. For example, instead of saying I want, or I expect. Say “I would like to request” or “could we try…”

Have a clear schedule.

Make a big calendar for the wall or an electronic calendar you can both access through your phone. However, you feel works best to communicate it, make a schedule so you have an idea of what the month ahead will look like. Having a predetermined plan will help create stability. It will make your transition from living together, to new living arrangements easier for everyone. Much anxiety is derived from the fear of the unknown. If your children know where they will be headed tomorrow or who they will be living with this weekend, it helps to eliminate their worry.

Be a team player.

Whether at work or in a friendly neighbourhood road hockey game, you will find that teamwork makes the dream work. Set your personal issues aside for your children and commit to working as a team for their sake. You will find discussions get easier over time, and your children will see you working together. This will help create a co-parenting plan that works. It will also help your children remain confident that even though you are not together, you’re still their parents, and you’re still a family.

Be flexible when needed.

Granted there is a fine line between being flexible and being taken advantage of. However, there is much in life that you do not have control over, and no one is perfect. Being flexible while working out a co-parenting plan and executing it is just as important as the plan itself. Maybe you get called into work early and are not able to drop the kids off at school. Perhaps a family event is really important to you for your children to attend but the date doesn’t fall on your day in the schedule. A little give and take, a little flex here and there will eliminate undue stress and even anxiety in your new living arrangements.

Attend important events together as parents. 

When your children see you and your spouse get along even though you’ve had issues in the past, that’s a really positive thing. It models for them how to be respectful to others even though they may not agree with what was said or they do not get their way. It teaches them and demonstrates to them how to effectively communicate with others without conflict. Even, how to resolve conflict through positive communication. Lastly, having both of their parents attend big and little events in their lives makes them feel loved, and important to you, their parents.

Although there is no right or wrong way to build a co-parenting strategy that works, we hope these tips have been helpful to you. Of course, if you are looking for more assistance, we do recommend working with a family counsellor, family specialist or mediator. If you have created a co-parenting plan and your spouse is making sticking to it difficult. Or if you are experiencing child custody issues, the experienced family lawyers at Galbraith Family Law are here to help. If you have questions as to your child custody rights. Or it is time for an official child custody arrangement. Give us a call today at one of our five locations to book a consultation. We pride ourselves on resolving your family law issues with heart and we do everything we can to keep you out of the courtroom with our collaborative law approach. For our Toronto family law offices call 647-370-8965, for our Newmarket office call 289-210-4692 or you can reach us at our Barrie office at 705-230-2734. We’re here to help you as much or as little as you need to resolve your family law issue.

To learn more about how you can protect your child or children during divorce or separation watch a quick video from Brian Galbraith here.

Brian Galbraith

Brian Galbraith is the owner and founder of Galbraith Family Law Professional Corporation. Brian is known in the legal community for his commitment to efficiently practicing family law using technology and streamlining the divorce processes.

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