7 ways to co-parent harmoniously

by Laurel Pretorius
Even if you can’t stand each other, always think about the children in a divorce or separation, and put on a united front for them when you attend events together.
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Even if you can’t stand each other, co-parents should always think about the children in a divorce and put on a united front for them when you attend events together. By Laurel Pretorius.

A difficult divorce is a traumatic experience, especially when there are children involved. Co-parenting, the shared responsibility of raising children between separated or divorced parents, demands effective communication and cooperation.

While the road to an amicable co-parenting relationship may be bumpy, it’s important to try for a smoother road trip. Because, when a separation is particularly tough it can become a veritable nightmare for everyone concerned when your bitter divorce affects them at important gatherings and holidays.

Check out: 4 relationship behaviours that can lead to divorce

Here are 7 ways to navigate the minefield of a difficult separation or divorce without creating too much of a fall out over family gatherings:

  1. Your children’s well-being is everything

Regardless of personal differences, the primary focus during family events and holidays should be the well-being of your children. No matter how antagonised you may be feeling, their needs come first. So, create positive vibes only for them. They ultimately benefit the most from seeing their parents working together harmoniously.

Social worker Sinethemba Nkosi, from The Family Life Centre says that children take the biggest impact and it already starts before the divorce is finalised, especially when parents are constantly fighting. “It’s not only the mind that becomes negatively impacted but also the physical, psychological and emotional health of a child,” she states.

  1. Talk openly about cooperation

Clear communication is the cornerstone of successful co-parenting, especially during events that require joint participation. Make open and honest discussions about upcoming family gatherings a priority because this will start setting the tone for cooperation. Discuss logistics, schedules, and expectations in advance to minimise surprises and reduce potential conflicts.

  1. Plan ahead

Put together a detailed schedule that outlines when each parent will be responsible for the children. Share this schedule well in advance, allowing both parents to make necessary adjustments to their plans. Consistency and predictability can provide stability for yourselves and your children during potentially stressful times.

  1. Be flexible

While planning is important, flexibility is just as crucial when co-parenting because life is guaranteed to throw unexpected situations into the mix, and being open to adjustments can prevent unnecessary tension.

If one parent faces challenges attending an event, consider alternative arrangements, such as adjusting visitation schedules or finding compromises that work for everyone involved. Or, if both of you should be attending an event but one of you is feeling particularly volatile, find the grace to step out and allow the calmer person to attend.

Read: How to tell your kids you’re getting divorced

  1. Create separate spaces

During family events, when you both need to attend, actively remain separate from each other even if that means you sit at opposite sides of a room or one of you stays inside most of the time while the other remains outside.

This can help avoid uncomfortable situations and allow your children to enjoy the event without feeling caught in the middle. Focus on making the environment as comfortable and stress-free as possible for them.

  1. Focus on positive interactions

Even if the divorce or separation has been less than amicable, strive to maintain a positive attitude during family events. Avoid arguments, negativity, or any behaviour that may make your children and the guests uncomfortable. Keep conversations focused on the present moment and the well-being of the family. When you feel like lashing out, now might be a good time to bite your tongue.

  1. Seek professional guidance

If navigating family events and holidays becomes particularly rough, consider seeking the help of a mediator or therapist. A neutral third party can provide guidance on communication strategies, conflict resolution, and co-parenting techniques that will benefit both you and your children because above all else remember that they are the innocent ones who often bear the brunt of your fall out.

“As a professional, having worked with separated parents who seek out my help, I have come to learn that unresolved issues are their biggest obstacle. These issues prevent parents from being able to see the bigger picture which is to raise their children,” says Nkosi who reiterates that before any form of amicable co-parenting can take place, parents must talk to each other.

The bottom line is co-parenting requires effort, patience, and a commitment to putting your children’s needs first. Remember, forgoing politics and forming a united front from both of you will ultimately lead to a lasting positive impact on your children’s well-being and overall family dynamics.

Also read: The trick to peaceful co-parenting after divorce- a personal viewpoint

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