Co-parenting is hard. There is just no other way to describe it. Raising a child is difficult... and doing it with someone you are no longer with, likely for some pretty major reasons, is just... well, hard. I'm pretty sure that while certain aspects of co-parenting may get easier over time, I'm also pretty sure that it never becomes flawless. I mean, what relationship is?
While every co-parenting relationship is different and I'm certainly not a professional expert, there are a few simple key actions in my own co-parenting relationship that I have found make a world of difference... or in some situations, would make a world of difference if they were to happen.
Be friendly when you are all together. It's inevitable that somewhere along the course of your child's life, you are all going to have to be in the same location at once. Sporting events, graduations, birthdays, parent-teacher conferences... whatever the occasion, it can make things a lot easier (for you, the co-parent AND your child) to just be friendly in those situations. Say hello to each other. Chat about what you were going to tell them in your next text or email. Maybe even sit together. Let's be honest... you may rather spend an hour picking up the dog poop in your backyard with a toothpick than hang out with your ex for an hour... but put on an act, fake a smile, whatever you gotta do. I mean, we are all adults here, right? Oh, and this includes stepparents, friends and other family members. Encourage those who are going to be with you to do the same and let them know if you observe otherwise. There is nothing more awkward than the stepparent who makes it super obvious they don't want to sit anywhere near you... kids are observant and chances are they will notice at some point!
Say thank you. Let's go back to good ole manners, people. Say thanks... when you ask for a favor and the other parent follows through. When you request a schedule change and the other parent agrees to it. When you call for help because you got stuck in traffic and need the other parent to pick up your child at the last minute. When the other parent changes around their vacation dates so that you can have the dates you prefer. I'm not talking about flowers or a thank you card or a public shout out. A simple verbal "thank you" goes a LONG way. And if you can't muster up a verbal thanks, send it in a text.
Return phone calls, texts, emails. Even if they don't require an answer. Text back "ok." Email back "ok." Call back and say "ok." Acknowledge in some quick way that you received their message. Not only is it a good way to make sure that both parties know that the information was received, but it's just respectful.
Don't ever tell the other parent that it's not their business to know that someone besides yourself is watching your child. Now, I'm not saying you need to notify the other parent if you are running out to the store for an hour and your spouse is going to watch your child. That would be ridiculous. I'm not even saying that it's a requirement to let the other parent know if your spouse or a babysitter is going to regularly be watching your child while you are at work. However, if the other parent asks, just tell them. They have every right to know who their child is with, if he is not with you. If you're going to say, "it's not your business," you might as well also say, "I'm going to belittle your role as a parent to purposefully piss you off and make this co-parenting relationship as difficult as possible."
Ask their opinion. Even if you don't need it to make a decision about your child and even if you don't respect it. Now don't get me wrong... it's not a good idea to get yourself into a position where an argument is started because you have different opinions. If it becomes obvious the conversation is headed in that direction, it's probably best to thank them for their input and get the hell outta Dodge. However, if there are certain aspects of parenting in which you have sole legal rights to make decisions, asking for the other parent's input can really help foster a positive (or at least a sometimes positive) co-parenting relationship over the course of time.
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