Co-parenting? Here’s what you need to know
Kim and Kanye are figuring it out. So are Gwyneth and Chris. “It” is co-parenting. Across the country, parents are discovering how to share parenting duties — especially with a new baby — when they’re not together. Here are a few helpful hints from Hello Baby if you’re co-parenting.
Get on the same page — and stay there.
Communication is key. Whether you and your co-parent connect via phone, email, text, voicemails or letters, keep an open dialogue. There are websites where you can upload shared schedules to make routines easy. In addition to scheduling, you’ll want to agree on some important topics.
- Rules should be consistent in both households so that children feel a sense of security. Make sure you’ve set joint boundaries about bedtimes, tooth brushing, eating, behaviors and chores.
- Agree on a plan about all caregivers, so you and your co-parent always know who’s watching your child. Make a list – together – of all family, friends and neighbors who will be directly or indirectly caring for your child. And remind each other that not all family or friends have the experience or temperament to care for your child. Ensure that while your child is under their watchful eye, your caregivers know your rules, how to deal with crying, food allergies and emergency contact information.
- Stay in touch. Your child is rapidly changing, so make sure you and your co-parent share information on milestones and changes. It may be emotionally challenging to have routine communication, but it will help your child’s healthy development. Also, your child will feel even greater joy when their successes are shared between both parents.
Put your child first — not in the middle.
Your child needs to know that both parents are on their side. Avoid complaining about your co-parent as research shows that children in the middle of adult issues often feel helpless, insecure and will question their own strengths and abilities.
Children often test boundaries, including talking about your co-parent. Be careful not to jump to conclusions. Try to remain neutral and bring up any concerns calmly with your co-parent. It may be tempting to be accusatory, but make the conversation about your child’s behavior, not finger pointing. Be sure to avoid secrets or activities that put your child in an uncomfortable position, i.e. “Don’t tell mommy …” or “Daddy doesn’t do homework like mommy…”
Remember, too, that kids aren’t messengers. Keep communication strong with your co-parent and keep children out of the middle.
Kids need balance — and so do you.
Kids need to do ordinary kid things. Be sure that in addition to fun, you also provide a healthy amount of boredom. That’s how your child will learn important skills. It’s equally important that both parents share the responsibilities of being the ‘fun parent’ and the ‘strict parent,’ so children learn balance.
Speaking of balance, take care of you. Parenting can be hard. Co-parenting can be even harder. When your child is with your co-parent, enjoy activities that help you replenish your body, mind and spirit.
Have questions? Get resources, support and more at hellobabypgh.org.