Are you separated or divorced from the other parent of your children? Is co-parenting with that person causing some emotional stress and resentment?
It can be tough to co-parent with a person with who you no longer live and who you often don’t agree with. It is difficult to put differences aside and keep in mind the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of our children as well as our own.
Let’s look at four ways that can help you, and in turn your kids! I am going to choose one way from each of the areas of mind, body, heart, and soul.
1. Have consistency around food and sleep in both households
For the PHYSICAL welfare of the children, they need good food and enough sleep in both parental homes.
It also creates confusion for the children and resentment for the parent if there is an inconsistency between the two homes.
Again, this will need an adult discussion between the two parents. If each parent has a different idea about what “good” food is and what is “enough” sleep, then a compromise will be necessary.
If compromise is impossible then I think the children are owed an explanation. They will need to hear from each parent their reasons for having differing views. Explain that each house may have different procedures around what is eaten and when bedtime is, however, when they are adults, they can choose which works best for them.
This may cause a lot of stress for the parent who has very set views on what is “good” but is it worth the battle of arguing the point? The discord can cause the children emotional stress that can contribute to more ill-health than the lack of good food and enough sleep.
I have highlighted just two examples of routines that need discussing. Of course, there are many more but for now here is some wording that may help with most examples.
“When the kids [come back dog tired after a weekend at your place], I am happy that [they obviously had a long day of fun], yet I feel [concerned that they will struggle with the school week ahead]. I need [the assurance that they will be refreshed enough to get to school on time]. Would you be willing to [have a phone call with me lunchtime Friday]? I would like to [brainstorm with you a bedtime routine that will work for both of us and the kids].”
2. Don’t criticise your ex-partner in front of the children
For the EMOTIONAL welfare of your children and yourself, please don’t criticise your ex. It is important to remember that the kids have half your DNA and half your ex-partner’s. If they hear you criticizing your ex, they may subconsciously feel you are criticizing half of them.
We are human and it would be unrealistic to ask someone to not ever criticize someone they are divorcing, however, complain to a best friend, counsellor, or a family member who can be empathetic for the time you need to get the complaints off your chest. Better still, write them down and let them go. Some like to do this by burning the paper they were written on.
Request that your ex has the same consideration for the children. As adults, demonstrate to the children that you can take the higher road of not airing your complaints to whoever will listen. I apologise to any of my friends and family who probably heard my complaints too often and for too long.
3. Know your values and those of your ex-partner
Part of our SPIRITUAL welfare is knowing what our values are.
We may have gone through the entire relationship with our ex without truly knowing what our values were. It makes it very difficult to be consistent with our behaviour if we don’t know what we value most.
For years I didn’t even consider what my values were and how they related to those around me, especially those who may have different values. For example, I value order in the home and I also value punctuality. If I know I value punctuality over order, then I will put aside making the bed so that I can get to an appointment on time.
If we know that our ex-partner values order over punctuality, then it will be worth making a little more effort to ensure the kid’s overnight bags are in order, even if it means being a couple of minutes late. For a start, this will hopefully avoid complaints in front of the children. Secondly, the consideration may be reciprocated.
This will require a conversation with the ex around values. Here is a way to request this conversation.
“I have noticed that we seem to have different values around certain topics. This can make it more challenging when co-parenting, however, I feel hopeful that we can better cater for each other’s value priorities. To do this, I need to know what your values are. Would you be willing to circle your top ten values on a values list and I will do the same for you?
4. Consider a joint bank account for child related expenses
For our MENTAL welfare, we need to alleviate the financial concerns of being able to fairly pay for child-related expenses. These are such things as medical bills, after school activities, food, clothing, etc. Sometimes there are child support payments, but these are often set by the lawyers and don’t meet the ever-changing needs of the children. It is also very inconvenient to always be asking for a money transfer when an invoice needs paying.
Consider the convenience of opening a joint account with your ex-partner. This joint bank account is solely for the expenses of the children. If statements are sent to both parents, then there will be complete transparency as to where the money is being spent.
The hardest part may be agreeing on what expenses will come from this account. It will also take some trust that the other person will not abuse the right to share an account with you.
It may need pointing out that the children need to feel secure that their needs will be met without causing an argument between their parents. Imagine if a child decided to give up an activity that gives them immense joy because they thought it was causing too much stress for one or the other parent.
I opened a joint account with my ex-husband, and it has proven to work well. We agreed beforehand where the money will be spent and what proportion we should both contribute. The amount was proportional to the income earned at the time. Whenever the account is getting low, we top it up with the agreed amount.
Remember, nothing is set in stone. The financial needs of the children and the parental income will change over time, so all can be adjusted accordingly.
I realise this may seem an impossible solution to some, so here is one way to word the request to give it a try. The words in brackets can be your own wording.
“When [we must continually consult about an expense for the kids], I feel [frustrated with the time it takes to get an invoice agreed upon and paid]. I have a need for [more expediency and autonomy and perhaps you do too]. Would you be willing to [consider the idea of having a joint account where we agree on the amount of money we both put in, and the expenses that we both can take out]? [I also feel it will benefit the kids if they don’t hear us discussing money concerns that are not theirs].”
This is modelled from the Non-Violent Communication model using observation (When….), feeling (I feel ….), need (I need ….) and request (Would you ….).
- Have similar guidelines around food and sleep in both households so that there is less arguing and complaining from the parents and more consistency for the children.
- Don’t be critical of your ex in front of the children, otherwise, they may subconsciously think you are being critical of any traits that have been passed onto them from your ex.
- Know your values and those of your ex so that the values of both can be considered when it comes to child-related issues.
- Consider a joint bank account for child-related expenses so that paying invoices is quicker, more convenient, and more independent of the ex.