I divorced my daughter’s dad approximately 9 years ago and it has taken us about that long to get to a civil place of co-parenting where nobody is yelling at each other, jealous, hurt or angry. I call that years of wasted time. Nobody, and much more importantly no child, should have to wait that long for parents to get their acts together, put their differences aside and communicate effectively. Life is too short. Children will grow up and soon they will be out of the house and on their own. You can spend all that time bitter and bickering and then all of a sudden wondering what you did wasting all of that time fighting with your ex?
While divorce can seem like the end of the world and in some cases it can be a mental, financial, and emotional drain on everyone it is far from rock bottom. The heavy lifting begins when you can acknowledge the CHANGE in the relationship, accept responsibility for your own actions, set aside blame for your pain and live with the REQUIREMENT that you must co-parent in order to provide stability for your child as they grow up.
What is co-parenting?
Before we get into my go-to resources I’d like to set a definition or guideline on what co-parenting is. Co-parenting is or being a “co-parent” is a situation where two parents work together to raise a child even though they are divorced, separated or no longer living together. Obviously it is more than that. The root word is “Co-” and when I think of the root word I think of words like cooperation, coordination, collaborate or concur (to agree). If one parent doesn’t agree with you it doesn’t automatically mean they don’t want to co-parent. It takes a lot of compromise, choosing your battles and your words carefully, and negotiation. Sometimes one parent will refuse to negotiate or another parent who is agreeable to everything (even terms they don’t like) just to avoid a fight or avoid setting boundaries. In cases of high conflict divorce it may be best to resort to Parallel parenting. Parallel parenting is where divorced parents are able to co-parent by means of disengaging from each other, and having limited direct contact, in situations where they have demonstrated that they are unable to communicate with each other in a respectful manner. This is not the ideal situation but it works for some. It is how my ex and I started to become effective co-parents when we decided to try parallel parenting first. As relationships evolve so do those that evolve after divorce. The differences between the two are important to differentiate and the divorcemag.com does a great job in explaining it in further detail in their article, “What’s the difference between co-parenting and parallel parenting?”
Top co-parenting resources and tools for single moms
Over the years I have read and tried numerous resources to help me on my co-parenting journey. I am glad that people are more willing to research this topic and make a concerted effort at co-parenting. Many divorce courts in the country require parents to take parenting classes that introduce the concept of co-parenting and have wonderful resources at your disposal regarding how best to co-parent. Check with your local family courts.
Online Co-parenting Education
Places like UptoParents.org provide parents with a free online class about co-parenting. They also have videos and articles with information provided in English and Spanish. One of the posts I enjoyed reading was an age by age guide about how children deal with divorce and separation and provided by Tarrant County Family courts in Tarrant County, Texas. Their guide, “Child Behavior by Age during Divorce” allows parents to identify physical and emotional behaviors in their children as the family goes through divorce. Being able to identify these behaviors can help you understand how best to help your child in the process.
Messaging and Scheduling Tools
This is the sticky part of most child custody agreements and it has to do with communication. It can be very confusing to remember visitation schedules, school schedules and activity schedules. In coparenting if both parents are to be involved, it is helpful to keep schedules organized. Parents can use paid tools or free tools. One such tool is Our Family Wizard. The OFW® website is subscription site that helps parents reduce divorce conflict by providing a central, secure location to document and share important information about your family. You can schedule parenting time, share vital information and manage expenses like un-reimbursed medical through the site or the mobile app. You can also use an online tool such as 2houses.com for scheduling coordination.
You honestly don’t need a special app for messaging if your children’s other parent can communicate effectively via email, text and phone calls. In fact, one parent may get defensive if you want to use a special app so be open to how you share information and don’t send messages through family members or through the kids. Be up front with the other parent. A scheduling tool is only as good as the people inputting the information and using it.
Helpful books on co-parenting
To this day, the book that I go to for some of the best advice regarding co-parenting is the book Mom’s House, Dad’s House by Isolina Ricci, Ph.D. I read this book from cover to cover on a flight recently and it is a resource I check with every so often. What I like about this book is that it goes in depth as to the psychological history of how certain relationships that end have a better of chance of being able to co-parent over others. Those that had high conflict marriages will almost certainly continue that high conflict after divorce. It helps put a perspective on how you view and enter into your future relationships and allows you the opportunity to be able to take a step back to your own individual responses to your children’s other parent. There also helpful tips on how best to communicate with your ex and ultimately putting you on the path to letting go of the relationship that once existed without sacrificing the identity and security of your child or children. It is really a helpful and powerful book. It also looks like they have an edition just for kids.
The Co-Parents’ Handbook: Raising Well-Adjusted, Resilient, and Resourceful Kids in a Two-Home Family from Little Ones to Young Adults
A much more recent and modern interpretation for today’s young families, The Co-parents’ Handbook also addresses the relationship ending part to then create a successful new family structure. Addressing parents’ questions about the emotional impact of separation, conflict, grief and recovery, the authors skillfully provide a road map for all members of the family to safely navigate through separation/divorce and beyond. Parents discover through practical guidance how to move from angry/hurt partners to constructive, successful co-parents. The Co-Parents’ Handbook: Raising Well-Adjusted, Resilient, and Resourceful Kids in a Two-Home Family from Little Ones to Young Adults does a good job at discussing kids at different age group levels. It’s an important book for navigating the co-parenting relationship.
BIFF: Quick Responses to High-Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media Meltdowns
Not a coparenting book per se but a definite must to learn about communicating in hostile or high conflict situations. This book not only helps on difficult communications with your children’s other parent but also other family members, coworkers or bosses, and any other situation that may warrant it. I believe this is an important step in learning how you communicate yourself and what your emotional intelligence says about you. If you have to co-parent with someone that has a personality disorder or who you believe has a personality disorder then this may be the book for you in helping to understand their situation.
What I most love about these resources is that they are stepping stones on a path to much more emotional freedom and gaining stability for your families. The decision to no longer stay in your marriage or relationship is a difficult one. We don’t get married with the goal of splitting up and our children deserve the best from both parents.