Whether you are filing a custody suit in Dallas, Texas or another county in Texas, rarely is the situation when one parent will get the children ALL of the time and the other parent NONE of the time. Thus, the vast majority of custody cases are really about two parents sharing a child according to a schedule that works for the child under the particular circumstances of that child’s life. Most frequently, the dispute is over whether one parent or the other will have the Texas Standard Possession Schedule (frequently seen as about 40% of the time) or more and whether the other parent will have the rest of the time. Parenting in these situations can be challenging, especially when the parents have differing styles and beliefs regarding discipline.
Deborah Serani in her article The Do’s and Don’ts of Co-Parenting Well provides some good pointers for handling co-parenting. Here are her “Do’s” for co-parenting. In the next part of my series on Co-parenting, I will provide her “Don’ts” for co-parenting.
- Commit to making co-parenting an open dialogue with your Ex. Arrange to do this through email, texting, voicemail, letters or face to face conversation. There are even websites where you can upload schedules, share information and communicate so you and your Ex don’t have to directly touch base.
- Rules should be consistent and agreed upon at both households. As much as they fight it, children need routine and structure. Issues like meal time, bed time, and completing chores need to consistent. The same goes for school work and projects. Running a tight ship creates a sense of security and predictability for children. So no matter where your child is, he or she knows that certain rules will be enforced. "You know the deal, before we can go to the movies, you gotta get that bed made."
- Commit to positive talk around the house. Make it a rule to frown upon your children talking disrespectfully about your Ex even though it may be music to your ears.
- Agree on boundaries and behavioral guidelines for raising your children so that there’s consistency in their lives, regardless of which parent they’re with at any given time. Research shows that children in homes with a unified parenting approach have greater well-being.
- Create an Extended Family Plan. Negotiate and agree on the role extended family members will play and the access they’ll be granted while your child is in each other’s charge.
- Recognize that co-parenting will challenge you – and the reason for making accommodations in your parenting style is NOT BECAUSE YOUR EX WANTS THIS OR THAT, but for the needs of your children.
- Be Aware of Slippery Slopes. Be aware that children will frequently test boundaries and rules, especially if there’s a chance to get something they may not ordinarily be able to obtain. This is why a united front in co-parenting is recommended.
- Be boring. Research shows that children need time to do ordinary things with their less-seen parent, not just fun things.
- Update often. Although it may be emotionally painful, make sure that you and your Ex keep each other informed about all changes in your life, or circumstances that are challenging or difficult. It is important that your child is never, ever, ever the primary source of information.
Go for the high notes. Each of you has valuable strengths as a parent. Remember to recognize the different traits you and your Ex have – and reinforce this awareness with your children. Speaking positively about your Ex teaches children that despite your differences, you can still appreciate positive things about your Ex. "Mommy’s really good at making you feel better when you’re sick. I know, I’m not as good as she is." It also directs children to see the positive qualities in his or her parent too. "Daddy’s much better at organizing things than I am."