Successful co-parenting after you and the other parent split up involves balancing competing considerations.
Yes, you now have the chance to make the time with your child or children truly your own. It's only natural to want to create a new way of doing things in your new household.
But it's also important to maintain as much consistency for the kids as possible. Trying to make too great of a change in how things are done can confuse your children and make their transition to life with divorced or separated parents even more difficult.
In this post, we will discuss how to strike the right balance between creativity and consistency in parenting plans. This means using compromise where necessary to do what's best for you and your child.
Custody plan as blueprint
Last month, we discussed some of the important elements for crafting an effective child custody plan. One of those elements is maintaining continuity in your child's activities and making those activities a priority. We wrote about this in our February 9 post,
For school-age children, this of course begins with establishing routines for doing homework - and sticking to them. This is far easier said than done when a child spends half of his or her time in mom's house and half in dad's.
Extracurricular activities, such as sports teams or musical groups, are also important. When both parents have a common commitment to activities that are important to the child, the better off the child will be.
Legally, co-parenting plans provide the basic blueprint within which daily routines for such activities are established. But when you and your ex set up separate households following your split, your children can really be confused. This is especially true if there are radically different ways of doing things in one household compared to the other.
The importance of communication
Being willing to communicate and compromise with your ex to maintain as much consistency as possible for your kids is therefore very important.
To be sure, you can still be creative in setting up your new household. Maybe you've got a parenting idea that you've wanted to try for a long time, but couldn't get buy-in from your partner. For example, if have teenagers, you might want to try an electronics-free week to get your kids off of their digital devices and into board games or conversation.
What we're suggesting, however, is that being creative has to be balanced with maintaining key points of continuity with your child's life before the parental split and with how your ex does things during his or her parenting time.
In short, creating a successful parenting plan involves a fine balance between creativity and consistency, with the ability to compromise a crucial component.
Indeed, for older children, it isn't only compromise with the other parent that we're talking about. As in any parenting relationship, you may have to compromise with your child, accepting what you can't control while still providing the guidance you can.
Being willing to compromise, however, doesn't mean being passive. In our next post, we will explore the flip side of the coin of compromise: staying true to your values and being proactive.