Being a parent is a difficult job, and it’s even more complicated if you share parental duties with another person outside of your household.
Co-parenting, also known as shared parenting, is the act of sharing the care, support, and major decision making of a child after a divorce or separation.
Separated parents may experience many ups and downs while co-parenting, the most frustrating of which might be maintaining discipline in each household. In the wake of a divorce, it may feel like any structure that used to maintain the rules of the household has been turned on its head.
It doesn’t have to be this way! Though it may take time, many parents learn to have healthy and mutually supportive relationships with their ex.
Here are 4 tips to maintain discipline while co-parenting:
Communication Is Key
The most important rule for co-parenting is to maintain an open and amiable line of communication.
This means putting aside all the emotional issues of the relationship – the guilt, anger, heartbreak, all of it – and focusing on the vital exchange of information. Keep in mind that you both have the same goal in mind, which is raising a well-rounded and healthy child. Any conversation between you must put the needs of the child first.
If you and your ex have difficulty keeping it peaceful when you speak face to face, use alternative modes of communication.
Texting or emailing may allow for a more straight-to-business discussion. There are even websites available to help manage scheduling conflicts and other co-parenting plans.
Rules Must Be Consistent
In order for the child to fully understand what is allowed and what is not, the rules must be consistent across households. This can only happen if the first tip is followed – rules must be discussed beforehand, and open for discussion in the future as behavioral issues arise.
Punishment for broken rules should also be consistent.
If one parent is more strict than the other, a tense dynamic is established. The child may see an opportunity to manipulate the situation and get away with bad behavior.
Don’t Try to Be the Favorite Parent
Though it may be tempting, don’t try to be the favorite parent.
Overindulging the child in fun, treats, and lax rules will almost certainly result in an unruly child and a resentful ex. In fact, studies show that boring ol’ downtime with the less frequently seen parent is important for a child’s development.
In addition, you should never speak badly about your ex in front of the child.
If it’s the child doing the ragging, don’t encourage them by joining in or agreeing with them. While it may boost your ego to feel that you’re the favored parent, the child needs stability and support from both of you in order to succeed.
Maintain a United Front
When things feel tough, it’s important to remember that you and your ex are on the same team. Therefore, you must maintain a united front against bad behavior.
Stick to the rules you’ve both agreed upon, and check in as the child grows up to see if adjustments need to be made. Behind the scenes, there may be a lot of hurt and blame between you and your ex, but when it comes to co-parenting, you must cooperate.
It can also be helpful to focus on the strengths of your co-parenting partner, and allow them to rely on your own strengths. This can help determine the division of care and responsibilities.
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