Co-Parenting? Here's A Few Tips That'll Help
Updated: Apr 23, 2018
Alright, guys - let’s face it: divorce can be tough. Really tough. There are many aspects that can be liberating, freeing, refreshing; but there are other realities that you’re not prepared for, that make things really, well, sucky. Co-parenting can be one of those things. Or, if you do it right, it can be manageable and not so bad.
I have personally dealt with a pretty rough co-parenting arrangement - not from the custody standpoint (that was determined during our legal proceedings) but from the day-to-day aspect of things. I was not prepared (nor did I think about) all the ‘stuff’ that kids need, want, have, etc, and understand how challenging it is to keep track of it when their time is spent between two households. Thank goodness I live close to my ex, that way if my daughter leaves her school textbook under her bed I can run it over that day, or if she wanted to grab that new green sweater I bought her, she can ride her bike over and grab it.
In addition, if both parents work, it can be really tough when work travel comes up or you need a sitter when it’s your week with the kids. How about if your child gets sick? Previously, when you were married, you could lean on another person (for the most part) to pitch in when an extra hand was needed. Now that you’re divorced, you’re pretty much on your own.
My personal experience has been particularly tough - because I am 100% on my own in this adventure. No family to lean on that could help out. I don’t regret a single decision I’ve made - but I’ll also be the first to admit that I had no idea how tough things were going to be.
School shopping? It needs to be done twice - so you have materials at both houses.
Clothes shopping? It needs to be done twice - or you buy two of everything - to ensure the kids have clothes at both places.
Sports schedules? Who takes the kids and when? Who’s responsible for buying sporting goods, and do you buy two sets of equipment, so your children have items at both households?
Doctor's appointments? Who takes the kids?
In addition to the logistical challenge of your kids living in two homes, it can also be confusing with managing their schoolwork, upbringing, religious practices, etc. Whatever touches your child needs to be something that’s discussed and agreed upon, otherwise things can get very hairy, very quickly. But first things first: you and your ex need to get along, at least to the extent that you can even have these discussions to begin with.
Then, what about finances? Sure, it’s easy for your divorce paperwork to list things like, ‘All expenses related to the kids are split 50/50 between the parents.’ However, this is much easier said than done. You register them for soccer ($120). You cover the co-pay at their annual doctor’s appointments ($60). You cover the birthday presents when they go to birthday parties ($150) - I could go on and on. If you’re in a similar situation, you’ll probably want to distance yourself from the number of conversations you’re forced to have with your ex - so how do you manage things without going broke and driving yourself crazy?
Well, your friends at NotTied are here to help! We've scoured the internet and pulled together some useful tips - and some that we’ve had experience with first-hand.
Even if you adopt just a few of these tips, they’re sure to help out, at least a little bit!
Our Family Wizard hosts an array of online tools to help parents in a post-divorce scenario, to include things like a child custody schedule, tracking parenting time, manage expenses, log communication and more. Our Family Wizard strives to reduce conflict by providing a central, secure location to document and share important information about your family. For $99/year, it seems like a bargain compared to the alternative. Check out some of their tutorial videos to learn more.
Bonus: OFW is linked with a variety of statewide and regional resources, so you’ll always get the info that’s relevant to your needs.
UpToParents.Org is a great resource that really helps you to define what’s important (as it relates to your kids) and determine a plan of attack. They offer online classes about co-parenting, and how to do what’s in your children’s best interest. They have a great video that provides an overview - and best of all, their services are free! One video that was very eye-opening for me personally, was listening to an interview that was done with 3 young girls (sisters), who talked about the impacts of their parent's divorce, and how important good communication is. It was a bit of a tear jerker - but is also a great reminder of how putting your differences aside needs to be a priority when raising a co-parented child.
There are tons of books out there that can help guide you through co-parenting, one, in particular, is the Mom’s House, Dad’s House, authored by the internationally renowned therapist, family expert and mediator Isolina Ricci, Ph.D. It includes self-tests, checklists, tools and guidelines to help with co-parenting.
The University of Minnesota created the Parents Forever™ program, which is a court-ordered online course that provides an educational program to those families that are going through a separation. While some take it because they have to, many parents have taken the course because it's proven to offer the tools they need to help themselves and their children during this challenging time.
Coparently offers online and mobile communication tools to help co-parents improve calendaring issues, communicate more clearly, track shared expenses, and store accurate, up-to-date contact information. The solution costs $99 per year, per parent, or $9.99 per month. Again, that's per-parent pricing, which adds up. On the plus side, the solution's clear interface may mean that you'll both be more likely to use it on a regular basis.
Cozi is a free online calendar program that's ideal for co-parenting communication. In addition to shared calendar pages, it also offers free mobile options, shopping lists, meal planning, to do lists, and more.
You'll get through this!! Co-parenting can be tough, but as long as you both respect each other, and don't bring the divorce talk out in front of your kids, it will improve. It just takes time, patience, and the right tools.
Disclaimer: The writer of this article is not an attorney. Please seek legal counsel on anything that pertains to legal issues and laws.