How to be a collaborative co-parent (and encourage your ex to do the same)

collaborative co-parent

You are probably reading this because you have recently separated and are starting out on your co-parenting journey wondering “where to from here?”. It’s complicated. But it doesn’t have to be. Which is why, in this article, we discuss collaborative co-parenting.

Can ex-lovers or ex-spouses ever really transition to be collaborative co-parents?

Can we retrain our brains to view our ex in a different light and shift the way we include them in our decision making process?

There is little doubt that the end of a relationship is an incredibly distressing and emotional time. You will go through a whirlwind of feelings, from sadness, to anger, to guilt, to regret and even a desire to go back to the way things were.

The biggest challenge is how to move forward when you have children and give yourself the space to work through the rollercoaster of feelings when you still need to communicate with and see your former partner.

  • How do you shift your mindset from couple to co-parents
  • And, how do you work out the ins and outs of communicating effectively together, despite the anger or hurt?

The good part of collaborative co-parenting

The best part about working together and encouraging your ex to be collaborative co-parents, is that you are shielding your children from what can often be a very scary and confusing time for them.

By shifting your way of thinking and encouraging your ex to jump on board the collaborative co-parenting journey – you are providing your children with the gifts of safety and security and encouraging them to grow into strong and resilient children and adults.

Separation is not the end – it is the beginning of a new journey providing you with the foundation to recreate a new version of ‘family’ with your own rules.

What is a Collaborative Co-Parent?

If you are ending, or have ended your marriage or relationship, and have children, you are probably lying in bed at night wondering:

“What happens now?”

“How do we both raise the kids”

“This feels complicated”.

The road ahead seems daunting because separation brings trauma, stressors and challenges which make it difficult to see forward and into the future. 

Following your separation, its time for you as parents to take responsibility for your children’s wellbeing, and make joint decisions which will promote a healthy and happy development away from the trauma of divorce or separation.  

It is important to remember, although your family unit is no longer the same, it is still a family

Acknowledging this and putting your children’s needs ahead of anger and conflict will allow you to co-parent in a more effective way.

My five top tips to work as collaborative co-parents

1. Manage your emotions and the impact of separation away from your children

There is little doubt that the breakdown of a relationship requires a healing process – whether it be grief, anger, loss, confusion. It will take time to find yourself, re-establish a level of normality, find purpose, and navigate your new life as a separated parent.

The worst thing you can do is burden your children with your grief causing them unnecessary stress and confusion.

As hard as it seems – try your best to keep tears behind closed doors and anger out of sight or hearing distance.

The way you tell your children about your separation is really the first step to a healthy co-parenting relationship moving forward and encourages your children to have a healthy relationship with each of their parents.

2. Effective communication is everything

I have recently released a free E-Book which walks parents though my four pillars to effective communication; listen, pause, reflect and then respond.

As set out in my E-Book:

“Learning to effectively communicate and have positive dialogue is often the first step. By implementing tools to set boundaries around your communication, what seems difficult at the start, will become second nature in no time”.

Take it from me – this doesn’t happen overnight.

Communicating with an ex is tough – and seems impossible in the first few days, weeks, months and even, I would say years.

But you will get there, and it will become easier – and trust me, your kids will thank you for protecting them from the conflict and exemplifying for them what healthy communication looks like.

3. Set and respect boundaries

Remember that with the right rules and tools in place, as separated parents you can coexist (and hopefully even get on!).

By implementing a set of agreed rules and appropriate boundaries around your co-parenting relationship, you are giving your children the gift of safety, security and stability following separation.

It is important in the early days to set boundaries around what issue requires what type of communication.

If it’s urgent (think broken bones or emergency room type stuff) a phone call is always best. If it’s to discuss a change to parenting arrangements, routine, or your child’s development, an email might be best. And if it’s to do with day to day issues including ballet shoes being left at the other house, or an upcoming school play – a text message is likely to do the trick.

4. Be flexible when reaching post separation parenting arrangements

Your schedule or routine needs to work best for your kids – not you.

Whilst we all have an idea of what is ‘fair’ – I recommend modelling an arrangement for an interim period to see how it works and then building up/down from there.

For example, if your children aren’t use to spending great amounts of overnight time with their other parent, try starting with one overnight a week for a month or so, and adding from there depending on your children’s ages, stages of development and the practical realities of things like school drop offs and pick ups, extra curricular activities and the like. School holidays are a great opportunity to extend flexibility and share time in greater amounts to allow both parents to travel with kids.

5. Preach love and don’t denigrate

The worst thing for kids is to be in a room where family members or friends are talking about how terrible their other parent is and hearing about all the things they have done wrong. Children shouldn’t feel the need to align themselves with one parent over another.

The best thing for kids is to hear each of their parents praise the other parent (where due) and have each parent encouraging of the time that child will spend with each of their parents.

Imagine how nice it would be for your child to wake up and hear “Today is going to be great – you are heading over to dad’s” or “I’ll miss you but the weekend with dad is going to be so much fun”.

Further support with collaborative co-parenting

To assist in working on your co-parenting communication and to pick up some important tools and tricks – take a read of my E-Book Communication is Everything”.

It’s free and bound to assist with challenges that you face along the co-parenting journey.

Further reading: 7 Suburb ideas for moving kids stuff during handover.

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