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7 Practical Tips on Co-Parenting Your Child With Your Ex
Even though your romantic relationship with your ex is over, the fact is that your relationship as co-parents to your children will remain. Therefore, now is the time to work together to develop an effective co-parenting plan that works for both of you and is uniquely in the best interests of your children. An effective co-parenting plan can very well keep you out of court and place the responsibility of caring for your children with you and your ex rather than with a judge. Get started with these practical tips:
1. Identify the core values you share with your ex about how your children should be raised. For example, maybe you and your ex agree that you each want to be positive role models for your children, or you both value self-respect and respect for others and want to pass that on to your children.
2. Make a list of issues or decisions that need to be made for your children. For example, you may need to decide where your children will go to school, what is the best parenting schedule for your children, which of you will make decisions about doctors, tutors or other professionals, and how such decisions will be made. This list will often change as your children grow and become more involved in school and extracurricular activities.
3. Develop effective ways to communicate with each other about these and other important issues that arise regarding your children. When you communicate effectively with each other, you set a positive role model for your children and build your own strength. For example, during a conversation, go beyond your personal needs and interests to be fully present to what your ex is saying. Listen to understand where he or she is coming from. When you respond, you can first clarify what was said by starting your response with “It sounds like you said…” This can be difficult and challenging, especially at first, but it’s worth it. For help with this, I recommend Sharon Ellison’s book, Don’t Be So Defensive: Taking the War Out of Our Words with Powerful Non-Defensive Communication and Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Surrendering by Roger Fisher and Bill Ury.
4. It may be helpful to consult with an experienced family therapist or parenting coach to help you communicate with each other to create an effective parenting arrangement and/or parenting schedule that is unique to your children’s needs . Bring the lists above to use as a guide and be flexible in making any changes. You’d be surprised what a good therapist or coach can accomplish for a fraction of the time and cost involved in going to court! If you would like a list of local experts for this purpose, please contact me.
5. Keep a journal to record important events that happen while the children are with each of you, especially if the children are very young. This should be a journal exchanged between the two of you. You can record notes such as the time your child slept each day, what he or she ate, any milestones reached such as crawling, running, if your child was sick or whatever you think is important and useful to know your ex.
6. Read the book entitled Mother’s house, father’s house: Making two homes for your child by Isolina Ricci, Ph.D. or visit http://www.momshousedadshouse.com. These provide some very valuable tips and additional resources for co-parents.
7. Take advantage of the Our Family Wizard website, which includes a calendar to coordinate a shared parenting schedule online, among other tools, to help you communicate effectively with each other. The website can be found at http://www.ourfamilywizard.com. For example, the calendar allows you to enter your child’s scheduled activities, such as birthday parties, extracurricular activities, and school or sports events, so you both have access to the schedule. This can help avoid missing information or miscommunication that could otherwise result in a lawsuit.
The key to successful co-parenting is to be proactive rather than reactive, taking advantage of the many resources available to you.
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