Whether you’ve split perfectly and you’re still really amiable or you’ve just gone through a very messy divorce or separation, the health and happiness of your child and/or children remains the highest priority. The separation of a child’s parents is incredibly stressful for a young child, and it’s good to be aware and prepared to nurture them through this hard time.
(Wondering about custody and visitation schedules? Download our free guide, "16 Custody and Visitation Schedules")
Setting up the right co-parenting environment is the best way to ensure long-term success not just for your child, but also for you and your former partner as you try to maintain a civil and productive relationship. It’s difficult enough for a child to deal with two parents who are no longer together (or never were), but you can make it easier on them by figuring out how to co-parent alongside your partner.
Check out these six basic tips that will help you create the foundation of a strong co-parenting system that lasts years.
Living Arrangements and Schedules
Everything starts here; determining the child or children’s living situation and their weekly and monthly schedule is crucial to your co-parenting success. If you already have a court-ordered arrangement or one decided upon by a judge, then that’s where you’ll start. If you have joint custody, there are other questions you’ll have to answer.
You’ll need to figure out not only where and when the child will live, but many other factors that come with living situations. For example, if the parents don’t live close to one another, how will they coordinate? What if one parent moves away? You’ll also need to agree on babysitting and childcare situations, as well as how the child will communicate with the other parent while apart. The more communication before you’ve officially split up, the easier it will be for the child.
Vacations and Holidays
Like living arrangements, you’ll have to figure out how the child will spend their time, and this includes vacations, holidays, and other special days throughout the year. Children have a lot of time off, from summer breaks, school holidays, national holidays, and school closings.
If not already decided by a court order, you and your partner will need to decide in advance how these days off will work. This also includes events like weddings, funerals, or graduations. Emotions are often a significant factor when managing the lives of your children, so having a specific schedule can help mitigate things.
Every child needs not just medical and dental care, but frequent checkups to make sure they’re on track for significant milestones in their development. This is hard enough for parents to manage when they’re one unit, but separated, it’s easy for disagreements to pop up. When they do, it’s helpful to have a plan.
From emergencies to common illnesses to planned appointments, you should discuss who will care for the child in any scenario. Furthermore, you’ll need to figure out whose insurance the child will be on, and who will hold their health card, as well as how and where medical information will be shared.
This is especially pertinent if your child has special needs, which likely means they’ll have even more appointments as well as treatment and possibly even prescription drugs.
A child’s education is one of the most important parts of their upbringing, and there are several options and variations to discuss. First of all, if you and your ex-partner live far away from one another, you’ll need to figure out where your child will even attend school. Subsequently, you’ll have to figure out situations like parent-teacher conferences and school events, as well as what circumstances warrant the child missing school.
Even more, you or your ex-partner might prefer home school or private school, in which case there are even more conversations to be had, especially if one person cannot afford the school in question.
Perhaps just as important as school are a child’s extracurricular activities, which can be anything from sports to artistic hobbies to simply hanging out with friends or joining clubs. You and your partner will need to decide who is going to bring the child to these events as well as if both of you will attend games, recitals, and the like.
This can be particularly tricky if and when one parent schedules an extracurricular activity during the other parent’s time with the child. You should talk beforehand about how to handle these situations to help bring clarity and ease.
It’s one thing that doesn’t get touched on often when reading about separation or divorce, but the religious upbringing of a child is a very important part of their lives, and you should talk with your partner about what that will look like.
If you and your partner have different beliefs, finding that balance can be incredibly difficult, especially if you don’t discuss it before separating. As with all the things on this list – but specifically this one – the more you communicate outside the presence of the child, the better things will be.
Obviously this is not a conclusive list, because every family is different. There are other pieces, like extended family and travel, that you and your ex-partner will have to talk about depending on your situation. To learn more about successful co-parenting, download our free guide below, and to talk with us about your needs, give us a call at (405) 701-6376 today!