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How To Be Great Parenting Partners For The Sake Of Your Child

Parenting partners must think of their children first.

When you start a relationship, you never do it with the thought of splitting up from your partner at some point. While you are aware that the idea of a Prince Charming and a princess who waits to be awaken from her sleep is completely ludicrous, you do hope that at least you two are going to make it. You see people breaking up every day, but you just don’t see yourselves being among them. Later on, babies enter the picture and the bond seems even stronger – except, it’s not – and eventually, the fairytale goes awry.
While separations are tough for everyone involved, children suffer the most, because they just can’t wrap their heads around the idea that things will never be the same again. However, just because things will be different, it doesn’t mean that parent will stop acting like parents – or, at least, it shouldn’t be like that.
If you split from your partner, most of the time you both have a common goal – the happiness of your children. No matter the hard feelings you might have for each other, the desire to make your children happy is what pushes you to reach a consensus and collaborate. As long as you focus on your children and leave the other resentments aside, you can become successful parenting partners and here’s how:

1) DON’T TRASH-TALK YOUR EX

Parenting partners must reach an agreement

If the separation was messy, there is always this lingering feeling of wanting to get even with him/her. You don’t want to be the only one suffering, so you think of sabotaging your child’s relationship with him/her out of bitterness. Don’t go there. Don’t expose your child to your own issues and don’t ask him/her to take any sides. Using children as shields will only make them feel helpless and insecure. You are the adult here, not your child, so don’t expect him/her to understand your frustrations.

2) DON’T TAKE EVERYTHING CHILDREN SAY FOR GRANTED

Parenting partners shouldn't ask their children to take sides.
Never forget that children can be gifted storytellers – and by storytellers I mean liars. They have a way with words, telling stories so convincingly, that you would never guess that they are a pure fabrication. Trusting them 100% is not always advisable, especially if you just broke up with your partner. Children might resent the ex and come back home after visiting him/her, exaggerating things on purpose to put him/her in a negative light. Take a deep breath, stay calm and when in doubt, just discuss with your ex before jumping to any conclusions.

3) STAY POSITIVE WHEN KIDS LEAVE FOR YOUR EX’S HOUSE

Pareting partners make sure to get their children ready to go to the other parent.

This will feel very awkward and strange at first, but it’s up to you to make a smooth transition. First things first, try not to break your own rules. If you teach children about punctuality, yet you always bring them late to your ex’s house, just because he/she is the ex and he/she can wait, you are not giving a good example. Instead, help the kids adjust with the change, reminding them 2-3 days before that they are about to visit their parent. Help them pack the things they need and the things you know that comfort them, like a stuffed toy or a game, so that they don’t feel the transition as being too abrupt. Another good idea is to have duplicate objects at both houses, like toothbrush, pajamas, hairbrushes, shampoos, so that they don’t always have to bring stuff from A to B. Also, instead of picking up the children, drop them off, to avoid ruining a potentially special moment between them. The other parent also needs some quality time with the children and if you pick them up on “switch day”, you might unintentionally hijack the other partner’s attempts to bond with them. When they come back home don’t make a big fuss about it. Act normal, have some quiet time or do some relaxing activities together. Try to establish a routine for when they come back, like playing certain games or preparing their special meal. Kids like to know what’s to expect, since they depend on routines. And last, but not least – give them space. Sometimes, even adults have difficulties acting like grown-ups during separations, so don’t expect the children to adjust on the spot, when you can’t either. Don’t suffocate them if they look like they are not in the mood. Give them time and space and have patience – it will normalize eventually.

4) DON’T LET FEELINGS GET IN THE WAY OF YOUR BEHAVIOR

Parenting partners shouldn't let feelings get in the way of reason.

When your feelings are hurt, it’s normal to have your judgment affected, since you would be seeing your partner through a distorted filter, by letting the heart dictate the way for the brain. As always, put your kids first – “cooperation” is the word of the day and you both have to make it work (unless, of course, you find yourself in an exceptional case where there is nothing you can do about it). You might feel frustrated and angry, but don’t let those feelings manifest themselves in your behavior towards your children. Never vent to them – you can do it with family, friends, therapists, punching bags, but never with a child. The negativity would be unhealthy for everyone involved – when you feel like a volcano about to erupt, just remember what’s at the stake and breathe in and out. Your children’s well-being is way more important than those two minutes of continuous shouting.

5) REMEMBER WHY YOU LOVED YOUR EX IN FIRST PLACE

Parenting partners must leave resentments behind.

Yeah, sure, you don’t feel like going to that sort of place anymore – but you will need it. Not to torment yourself, but to remember how she/he is as a parent. Distinguish between the love he/she could have felt for you as a partner and the love he/she nurtures for his/her child. There are different kinds of feelings and just because one love ceased to exist and the relationship status changed, it doesn’t mean that it’s the same towards the kids too. Think of yourselves as a team who are both following the children’s best interest. Keeping the best qualities at the forefront will make it easier to indulge his/her presence.

6) DON’T SEND OUT MESSAGES THROUGH YOUR CHILDREN

Parenting partners must avoid turning children into messengers.

Hey, you have phone numbers – WhatsApp, Messenger, Viber. Heck, even face-to-face as an option. Don’t send kids out to do what you are supposed to. Don’t turn them into messengers, saying “Mommy/Daddy told me to tell you ___”. Again, behave like adults and be aware that such methods would only end up confusing the children, since they can see it as an attempt on your part to judge the other parent. Kids perceive more things than we realize, being emotionally alert and sensitive.

7) UNDERSTANDING THAT COMPROMISES ARE NEEDED

Parenting partners need to be adaptable.

Even if you see yourself as the one who did things right most of the time in the relationship, don’t be stubborn and adapt yourself to the situation. You can’t always have things your way and it takes two to co-parent. Try to understand your ex’s point of view as well and don’t take any major decisions without consulting him/her first. Be realistic about what you can do and if you need help, try to leave resentments behind and ask for it.

8) KNOW THAT IT’S OK NOT TO BE OK

Parenting partners must accept that their children will feel sad over the split.

Your kids will be sad over the split. It’s a fact. It’s human nature – and there is nothing you can do about it. Embrace those feelings and don’t try to force happiness upon them. Instead, let them be open with their worries and listen to what they have to say. Take their words into consideration and show receptiveness towards them – they are kids, after all, and they don’t have the strength to surpass these things without going through a whole recovery process.

9) TRY NOT TO BE THE COOL PARENT

Parenting partners should avoid the traps of being the cool parents.

When you and your partner split, there is an urge sometimes to turn into your child’s favorite parent – either the fun guy or the cool mom or whatever. Just be yourself, because instead of liking you more, they might see these attempts as a forced way to diss the other parent. Co-parenting is not about competition – it’s about team work. Acting like the cool parent who gives children a free pass just to prove that they are better than the other parent creates a cycle of resentment and possibly even reluctance to comply with the rules.

10) DON’T UNDERMINE THE OTHER PARENT’S AUTHORITY

Parenting partners should always respect each other's authority

In the same vein, don’t allow your kids to do certain things, just because you want to annoy the other parent. Things like: “I know you first do the homework with your Daddy, but I will let you eat dessert first!” or “I’ll let you play video games, but don’t tell Mommy!” will break any kind of consistency in education that you might aim for. Don’t bend your beliefs and rules simply because you want to demonstrate how much better you are than the other parent. This is not about winning the “Parent of the Year” award, but to give your best – not to prove something to the other parent, but for the happiness of your children.

Are you co-parenting too? How much different are your dynamics?

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