When co-parenting gets tough, it can often seem like the only solution is the court system. When the yelling, arguing and emotions reach a high, you many be stuck with the difficult choice to go before a judge to settle your parental differences.
I’ve been there. My son’s father and I had a standing court agreement for over 10 years. During those years our constant bickering and fighting, sometimes for no reason at all other than trying to be right, led us to believe that only a stranger could sort out the complicated and tangled complexities of our co-parenting life.
Now, our son is 17-years-old and three years ago we agreed to disagree. We decided we did not want to spend the rest of our child’s childhood unable to have a simple conversation with one another. In hindsight, I can look at our arguments and see that they could have been settled amicably had we taken some steps in another direction and used the courts as a last result. Here’s what I wish we would have tried out first.
1. Get Some Neutral Elders Involved
Have you ever listened to one of your grandmother’s relationship stories. Well, I have, and let me tell you they were complicated. Elders in our community often have a birds-eye view of life. They’ve been there, done that. So, why don’t we seek their advice or even just perspective, when we are fleshing out the problems of life. Find an elder in your circle who has successfully co-parented and ask them what to do. If possible, find an older person who is neutral to your plight and see if they’d be willing to be a bridge between you and your co-parent until the emotions die down.
2. Co-parenting Apps
Studies suggest that over one-third of our nation’s children have a parent that is unmarried. That means that there are tons of co-parents out there. Tech savvy folks know this and are finding more and more interesting ways to help co-parents make life easier. If one parent doesn’t understand the financial burden that comes with parenting, check out the app CoParently. It allows mom or dad to make a budget of kid expenses for their partner to see. An informed co-parent can make less excuses. AppClose goes even further allowing you to create a parental expenses board, schedule reminders and even get access to medical and insurance info in one place.
3. Keep Parenting Together
One of the things that helps my co-parent and I not argue is being able to see ourselves from our kid’s perspective. If it’s not too late, don’t stop parenting together. If you previously had a day every month where you took your kid out, keep doing it. If you both attending his/her sporting or performance events together, don’t stop. When you’re arguing over the phone or text message, it’s easy to see all the bad in one another. It’s harder to do that face-to-face. And, I know this is hard advice mama, but you might have to grin and bare it. As I’ve stated before, your kid’s self-esteem is so wrapped up in their definition and perspective of their father right now. I’m not doubting that your child’s father may be hard to be around, but him seeing the two of you together and no fighting will go a long way in the long run.
4. Be Accountable Sis
Accountability is key. What part of your co-parenting difficulties are your fault? Seriously sis, where are you going wrong? Get out a piece of paper and make a list of how you could react more positively, stand up for yourself or be more accountable with your time and resources. Co-parenting is an 18-year-long journey. It’s not a sprint. You will be dealing with this man until your child is in his/her mid-twenties. ‘Tis life. You’ve got to get razor sharp about your intentions, behaviors and emotions in this new co-parenting dynamic. Instead of focusing on him, focus on making you the best you. Don’t try to lead a camel to water, instead sit down at it’s banks, pull out your glasses and start reading. Read all of the situations, arguments, and happenstances of your relationship with your co-parent. Then figure out how YOU can make this a better relationship for YOU.
5. Husband, Be a Fence
If you have remarried, or are now in a serious relationship and you know that your kid’s father is really acting a fool, hand over the reigns sis. This is not about intimidation, or your lack of strength. The reality is, women are often in a vulnerable state once a relationship dissolves. The vulnerability can extend beyond the days after you’ve broken up, and you co-parent may be sensing it. Allowing your significant other to be a part of mending, not further breaking, the relationship between you and your co-parent can help ease tension and even lead to a mutual respect between your new partner and your co-parent.
A’ight sis. That’s what I’ve got. Do you have any tools, behaviors or cognitive resources you’ve used to overcome co-parenting problems. Post them in the comments so that we can hear it.