If you are dissatisfied with your child's "other parent," if you need to double down on the good will to keep up the steady effort it takes to make co-parenting work, then this blog is for you.
1. Lighten up on judgments of your co-parent.
Face the fact that your co-parent's child rearing practices will routinely let you down and at times engender disgust in you. No matter how much they try, or brush up their skills, you two just might have evolved too differently. You may never have complete confidence in your co-parent or trust their judgment.
There will always be some perception gap and with that may come some harsh judgments -- some deserved and some pumped up by the fear of your differences to bridge the divide. Here, a little less judgment goes a long way.
2. First lower and then manage your lowered expectations.
By definition your co-parent will always be "less than" in your opinion. If this weren't so, you might still be together. As time goes by, you might care less, and that might be a better option.
Over-indulging in the fear that your co-parent is sub-par is likely being communicated to the children, even if you never say it out loud. Children are excellent at picking up on meta-communication: body language, intonation and other cues. To know that one parent unhinges the other creates an ambiance of failure that the child grows up in.
This muddies up their budding sense of self-esteem and longer term it may engender feelings of insecurity. If a child can't trust a parent, this lack of trust is internalized by the child. Trust in oneself is a necessary step that enables a person to take reasonable risks needed to live a full life.
3. Above all accept what you can not change in your co-parent.
This doesn't mean you agree with them. It means the days of being invested in trying to change your co-parent are over. Have confidence that over time kids develop their own ideas of the good reasons why you two aren't together, as well as what are your strengths and weaknesses. The freer and clearer the path between co-parents the easier it is for your offspring to develop a view that is accurate as opposed to distorted.
If your child is coming home in reasonably good shape from their other parent, trust that your fears might be unjustified. Really get it -- absorb on a very deep and nuanced level -- that because you're not under the same roof, you're asking children to do something arguably harder than you ask of yourselves.
If one parent is perceived as the 'back up' parent, strive not to label this parent as 'less than,' inferior or a failure. Each parent has something to provide that is different and unique that may be very important to the child's overall sense of well being.
4. Co-parents, you are on the cutting edge of a cultural generational shift.
Your kids have one shot at childhood. To cross the DMZ line between parents is a courageous and potentially dangerous thing to do, and it's more difficult still when conflict is in the air.
To cultivate resilience in your children, try to turn down the anger on your anxiety, disappointment and rage. How you co-parent today affects generations to come and your lineage forever. The choice is yours.