After a divorce, it can take time and effort from both parties to get to a point where their co-parenting relationship works smoothly. During this early period of change immediately following the divorce, emotions are likely still running high and establishing boundaries can prove challenging. Unfortunately, it’s in everyone’s interests to proceed as soon as possible.
Why it’s Important to Set Boundaries as Co-Parents
While the relationship between the two parents is changing, their responsibility to their child remains as important and well defined as ever. It’s easier for everyone involved if healthy boundaries are established early, and both parents understand what they have control over – and what they can’t control – regarding the children and each other. To give a specific example, both parties have no control over when (and who) the other person dates. Or, even whether this new partner is introduced to the children.
What can be controlled is how an individual reacts to this development in front of their child. Positively reacting, and choosing not to bad mouth the other parent, shows a strong example to the child of how to deal with disappointment and setbacks.
Here are 5 Tips for setting healthy boundaries as co-parents.
Have a Regular Schedule
An easy way to avoid conflicts and make parenting transitions easier for everyone is to put a predetermined schedule in place. Children thrive on routine, and knowing when they’ll be spending time with each parent will smooth one of the biggest changes they’ve likely faced in their lives so far. A regular schedule also allows trust to build between the co-parents as they both make a commitment to be there and there’s little room for ambiguity.
Treat the Co-Parent as You’d Like to be Treated
A healthy approach toward building trust and setting boundaries is to treat the co-parent as you would hope to be treated. Be on time for parental transitions, keep lines of communications open, and regularly discuss items from the child’s life. This open dialogue will make it easier to handle any disruptions to the regular schedule and is a powerful tool in establishing the shape of the post-divorce relationship to come. That being said, in some circumstances it may actually be helpful to narrow the means of dialogue in order to facilitate effective communication.
A common arrangement is that parents will communicate about things in writing (barring emergencies), and will sometimes even set out the topics on which they should provide each other with updates, and when they are to do so.
Make Big Decisions Together
It’s vital to the success of the future relationship between the co-parents that big decisions are made together. Parents who work well together and collaborate likely won’t have the need to hold big showdown talks to make decisions relating to the child’s life. No matter what, all decisions must be made in the best interests of the child, and both parents are equally responsible. This should be reflected in how these discussions and decisions are made, with both parents acting as equal partners.
Working in family law, we’ve seen too many parents who will attempt to curry favour with their child and get them to side against the co-parent. This is not how healthy co-parenting relationships should work. In fact, it’s a clear over-stepping of the boundaries. Co-parents should recognize their child needs to have a healthy relationship with everyone involved. Remember, the child’s affection for one parent doesn’t impact on their ability to be affectionate toward the other parent.
Be There for Events
For children, events represent an opportunity to share their lives with their parents. It’s them opening a window to their world and is vital for their continued healthy development. Both parents should put the child first and commit to attending events during their parenting time with the child. Depending on the nature of the relationship between the co-parents, it may be nice to have both parents attend at events.
Here to Help
If you have any questions about the divorce process, separation agreements or custody agreements, our family law experts at Westside Family Law are standing by to assist. Get in touch and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.