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People say that parenting is hard, but let me tell you, co-parenting is harder!! People who co-parent are real winners in my book and are stronger than the mighty Hercules! I couldn’t fathom the idea of communicating and getting along with my ex longer than I should, I gagged at the idea of going out for dinner once a week with my ex, I would sooner rip my eyeballs with the experience of traveling with my ex and his wife!!

But people do it. People co-parent like that. Not everyone goes on holidays as a family with their ex, but some do….and I applaud them. I applaud them because they removed all the hate, the anger, the sadness, all the yucky stuff and set it aside and made room for love, patience and tolerance. I applaud them because they committed themselves to co-parenting.

I co-parented too late, but not late enough for my son to say “thank you” when he caught his dad and I having a meaningful conversation over the phone. I applaud myself.

How to become a co-parent? How do you co-parent? How do I remove all the negativity and focus on my child? I will say that it is not an easy feat, but what makes it all possible… is your child.

I have taken my experience and my clients’ experience to describe the 4 most important lessons on co-parenting. Are you ready? Are you committed?

1) Communication

Communication is not easy for the separated and divorced parents. But it is not something you can avoid if you are committed to taking a child focus co-parenting relationship with the other parent. Remember your objective is to establish a drama-free child focus environment. Decide if email, text, face-to-face communication is better for the both of you.

Ok so now you have a co-parent, he is no longer your partner, and he is now your colleague. When speaking to the other parent, you are going to set a business like tone in your communications and speak to him in a way that you would with a colleague. You don’t have to be friends; you just need to find a way to be professional and courteous to each other.

If you and the other parent are getting along, communicate often through your means of communication. The children will see you have their best interest at heart.

2) Compromise

Good co-parenting often means compromising. Co-parenting works best when both parents are flexible and willing to work this co-parenting out. There is no “right way” to parent your children and as long as your children are safe and well looked after when they are with the other parent, don’t try to be the boss of both household.

Be flexible when it comes to special occasions, if the other parent’s birthday falls on the same time during your parenting time; be reasonable if your ex wants to celebrate with your children. If the idea of doing your ex a favor is intolerable, then do it for your kids. They have the right to celebrate birthdays and family occasions with both sides of the family – don’t take that away from them just to get back at the other parent.

3) Co-operation

Co-operation in co-parenting means you share the responsibility for raising your children together and treat each other with respect and consideration. You need to learn how to manage your parenting time schedule, transitions, school, shared expenses, childcare and activities. You will also need to co-ordinate doctors and dentist appointments, sick days, birthday parties and family gatherings. The more you can work together, the more effective your co-parenting will be

Remember that your children are always watching. They will see that both mom and dad are working together and most importantly see that their needs are above yours.

Co-parenting works best when both parents take an active role in important decisions relating to their children’s mental and physical well-being. By co-operating with each other, you will both have a sense of support through the big life decisions so that you are not left feeling like you are solely responsible.

The definition of co-operation is the process of working together to the same end. To truly co-operate with the other parent, you will need to continue to work together in your common goal of rising healthy, happy kids who don’t have to choose sides.

4) Consistency

Studies show that children adjust much more easily to divorce or separation when both parents remain present in their life and provide a loving, stable and consistent environment for them to grow up in.

Consistency doesn’t mean that everything has to be exactly the same as the other parents. But there are some important areas where your children will really benefit from consistency. Routine is very important to kids – it gives them a sense of security and helps them to feel safe. Work with your co-parent to set up a routine schedule for your children to follow. When expectations around chores, rules, mealtimes, homework, TV and social media are consistent in both houses, it enables children to develop the self-discipline they need to be successful in life.

Consistency in bedtime and bedtime rituals are very important for children of all ages. For kids to develop healthy sleep habits, it’s important for them to go to bed at roughly the same time every night. A consistent bedtime routine in both homes is really comforting for children. Discuss bedtime and bedtime rituals with your co-parent.

For children living between two homes, consistency on transition days can really help to reduce stress. Try to have a consistent transition time and a routine for drop off and pick up. It really helps to ease the anxiety of transitioning for your children when they know what to expect and can anticipate the routine.

With these four important tasks, you will have the foundation you need to develop a very successful co-parenting relationship. It’s a lot of work, but your kids will thank you.