One of the hardest things many parents face after a divorce is learning to be a good co-parent with their ex-spouse. Parenting in the same house is one thing, but managing it across two households is another. It can be especially difficult if you and your spouse end your relationship on bad terms.
Still, your top priority should be your children’s well-being. That means finding a way to share parenting responsibilities with your ex without your kids getting caught in the middle of your arguments. Consistent co-parenting is invaluable for children’s development, as is having a few healthy post-divorce co-parenting strategies ready to go.
The Value of Consistent Co-Parenting
Though they may not be aware of it, kids thrive on routines. Childhood is a time of constant change and growth, and kids may not know what to expect from their bodies or minds each day. Being a kid can be overwhelming, so it’s no wonder they do best when their daily life is predictable.
The problem is that when many parents split up, they want to parent the children “their way.” If the parents don’t work together, their approaches to everything from bedtimes to schoolwork to discipline can quickly diverge.
That’s a problem for kids. If you and your ex-spouse set wildly different expectations regarding grades, good behavior, and daily routines, the children never know what to expect. They are more likely to feel insecure about themselves and their relationships with you, which can lead to serious behavioral problems and even lifelong trauma.
That’s why consistent co-parenting is so important. Consistency across households allows kids to adjust to their new lives with minimal upheaval. As a result, they can bounce back from the stress and emotional impact of their parents’ divorce as quickly as possible. More importantly, it helps them feel secure in their place in the family and allows them to be a kid a little bit longer.
Strategies for Co-Parenting After Divorce
Regardless of your opinion of your ex-spouse, your kids have a right to spend time with both of you. While it may not be the most pleasant task, it is your responsibility to work with your ex to ensure your parenting approaches are consistent. Here are a few strategies you can use to ensure your kids have the best environment to grow up in after your divorce is finalized.
The most important rule for co-parenting successfully is communicating with the other person. Communication helps you stay up-to-date on your children’s lives when they aren’t with you. You are responsible for keeping each other in the loop about things like your kids’ activities, preferences, struggles, and anything else that affects their daily lives.
If you are concerned about arguments, keep this communication professional and to the point. You don’t need to make long phone calls or write multi-paragraph emails daily. However, sending a simple text message when something comes up goes a long way to ensure you both know what your kids are up to.
When you have a joint custody order, Oregon law requires you to have a parenting plan in place. This plan should outline when your kids travel between houses and, ideally, explain how they get from one home to the next. However, even the best strategy can’t always account for real life. People get sick, cars break down, and extreme weather events happen.
This is when it’s most important to coordinate and communicate with your co-parent. Give them as much notice as possible if plans need to change. Being open and honest about issues that could delay or prevent you from following the parenting plan reduces the opportunity for conflict. In addition, when your co-parent has an emergency, give them the same leeway you’d ask for in a similar situation. A little grace can go a long way toward keeping your parenting relationship peaceful.
Working with your ex may be the last thing you want to do, but it’s important for your kids. You may even find collaborating easier when you’re no longer married and living together. Ideally, you’ll collaborate to build consistency with things like:
- Setting house rules: Work together to answer questions like what are the rules for younger kids when playing nicely by themselves or with other kids? How should they act around guests and pets? For older kids, do they have a curfew? What kind of grades do you expect them to get? What are the consequences of breaking the rules? When you and your ex apply the same rules and punishments, there are fewer opportunities for confusion, and your kids are less likely to act out or pit you against each other.
- Creating daily routines: As much as possible, try to keep routines the same in both households. This means working together to determine bedtimes, when to schedule homework, when chores should be performed, and more. Maintaining similar routines across households keeps your kids on track despite the disruption of traveling from home to home.
- Changing expectations as children grow up: The rules and routines that work for a five-year-old will not work for a ten-year-old. Regularly check in with your co-parent to make sure you’re updating your approaches to parenting as your kids grow.
Reach Out to Experienced Child Custody Attorneys in Salem, Oregon
Co-parenting isn’t easy, but it’s one of the best gifts you can give your kids. If you’re preparing to get divorced or seeking a new child custody agreement, you can set yourself up for parenting success by working with an experienced and compassionate family law attorney like Stacy Regele.
At Regele Law, LLC, we specialize in providing skilled legal counsel to families of all kinds. We can help you develop a parenting plan that fits your needs and prepares you to co-parent healthily and effectively. Learn more about how we can help you by calling 503-744-6025 or reaching out online.