It’s not a secret that co-parenting is a job in of itself, one that requires many hours of on-the-job training. And since there is so much emotional labor involved, one or more parties might be tempted to lean on bad behaviors in moments of exhaustion or frustration. Here are some bad habits to avoid as a co-parent and how to avoid them.
1. Using your child as a messenger
Learning how to be functional co-parents is an extremely taxing and emotional process, so it can seem like an effective idea to use your child as a messenger to relay information between you and the other parent. Whatever your reasoning for doing this, whether it be spite, laziness, insecurity or bad blood between you and your co-parent, using your child in this manner is absolutely not appropriate. No matter the age of your child, they are not emotionally equipped to deal with the issues of your divorce or post-divorce issues. This is especially true if your children are very young.
The longer you abuse your parental power and use your child as a messenger, the more you hurt your child. So, if you are having communication issues with your co-parent, you both must rectify this immediately. If you can’t resolve it among yourselves in a mature manner, seek counseling or mediation. There are also several resources [link to our previous post about resources] that could be of valuable use to you.
2. Venting about your co-parent in front of your child
Much like using your child as a messenger, your child is not your buddy or your therapist. You must never use them as a sounding board for your complaints regarding your co-parent. No matter how big or small the complaint is, it is absolutely inappropriate to vent those frustrations in front of your kids. Again, your children should never shoulder the burden of your divorce, it is too mentally and emotionally taxing. Again, it is your divorce, not theirs.
What should you do instead? Save it for your friends, save it for your counselor or therapist, take it up with your co-parent if you can do so in a mature manner. It is absolutely crucial that your children are not in the middle of conflicts that are between you and your co-parent.
3. Not keeping communication child-focused
As stated before, divorce and co-parenting can be an extremely emotional processes, and as such, tempers can flare easily between the two parents. It stands to reason that communications between co-parents can become off-topic, off-task and possibly too personal. Counseling and mediation is where the bulk of your grievances should be addressed if your situation is more fraught with turmoil, so texts and calls should remain focused on your children. Focus on scheduling, pick-up, drop-off, school events, after-school events, visitations, vacations, birthdays, holidays–just not your personal issues. Always avoid confrontation when dealing one-on-one. Not only will this make your co-parenting better now, it will make it much more functional in the future and could possibly lessen the resentment between the two parties.
4. Avoiding communication with your co-parent altogether
Like in the previous example, where a co-parenting situation might be more difficult than others, you may tend to avoid communication with your co-parent altogether. Unless you’re in a special circumstance that may require you to actually cut off communication with your ex, such as in the case of domestic abuse, it is not wise to them out altogether. Ceasing communication outright will only sow seeds of discontent and mistrust with your co-parent and prevent them from effectively parenting themselves. If you are dealing with an especially contentious or controlling co-parent, not talking to them will not help them: it will not put them in their place, it will not teach them a lesson. It will only serve to hurt you if you’re going through mediation or counseling where you may be perceived as the uncooperative one. Again, you must communicate your issues with your co-parent (or, again, with a counselor or mediator) to resolve these in an effective and mature manner. Nobody can read your mind if you are not speaking it.