Yesterday was Parent Appreciation Day! We would like to honor those of you who are co-parents and your continuing journey to strengthen your connection with your children. Your decision to co-parent was not made lightly. As parents, we want to put our best foot forward and may need guidance at times to achieve this. Here are some ways to help you co-parent even during the toughest moments:
Communicate effectively. Try to communicate respectfully in a style that you think works best for the other parent while reaching out to them directly. Children should not be messengers that communicate for you to their other parent. Instead, text or email are good options if you do not want to discuss matters over the phone. If you feel you need to discuss an unusual or in-depth issue, draft your message and review it before you send it. Once you look it over, you may want to make changes. Text or email can remove the emotional tone that can be heard over the phone, and your words may come across harsher than intended. Removing the children as the go-between will allow your children to look back with appreciation for using effective ways to communicate their needs with their other parent.
Plan ahead (as much as possible). The most intense moments co-parenting occurs when trying to manage your children’s schedules. Start with important dates such as school events, holidays and birthdays. If you know there are dates that are meaningful to the other parent, this is an ideal time to offer those dates to them. They may appreciate your good intentions and reciprocate. Working through a well-planned schedule that was agreed upon makes it easier for the children to enjoy their time with you and gives you more time to plan special memories for the kids. Of course, it is not always possible to plan every date and there will be changes along the way. Showing flexibility and generosity during these times demonstrates your intent to work through these issues for the benefit of your children.
Remind yourself you are doing a good job. Take time to cheer on YOU, especially when it was a difficult week to co-parent. Make a point to carve out time during your day for self-care, such as exercising, deep breathing/meditation or journaling. Check in on how you are feeling, how you managed a difficult situation, or how you are looking forward to seeing your children. By putting yourself into perspective, you can deal with the unexpected or any other challenge more confidently. Doing something for yourself, no matter how big or small, can feel validating. There are many moving parts as a co-parent. You not only have to maintain a relationship with the other parent, but you also must go through general parenting challenges from toddler tantrums to teen adolescence, so moments of self-care are important.
Every parent’s journey is unique, and co-parenting will ebb and flow. Having an effective co-parent relationship shows your dedication and how much you value and prioritize your children. Write down some of your best moments and cherish them.