6 Ways To Cope When Co-Parenting Gets Tough

by Holly Garcia
Originally Published: 

Let’s be real — no one has this whole parenting thing figured out. All you know is that you love the little people you brought into this life with all your heart and soul. So when you and your partner split, and you find yourself co-parenting, it can be rough. And we’re not talking about just an adjustment to your schedule. To be honest, sometimes your co-parent makes the situation go from bad to nightmarish.

We’re all human; sometimes it’s harder to keep your cool than others. Especially when your ex is acting more like a child than the children you are supposed to be parenting together. You agreed you wouldn’t call each other names or talk negatively. There was no way you’d ever do anything that didn’t involve putting your littles first. There were always good intentions, and it was always going to be an even playing field — until it wasn’t.

Dealing with an unbearable co-parent is its own special sort of hell. But if you find yourself in this situation, never fear. Here are some different coping strategies to help you navigate the rough spots in your co-parenting journey.

Accept that you cannot change your co-parent.

Whatever caused you to decide to start co-parenting isn’t going to disappear as time goes on. If anything, a new routine, different scheduling, and the mix-up of your regularly scheduled program will exacerbate things considerably. Accepting that you can’t change your co-parent will save you many headaches, so do yourself a favor and don’t break your head against a brick wall trying.

Plan Ahead for Issues

Depending on what level your relationship was with your co-parent before the split will make a difference in what issues you run into co-parenting. Is this a temporary separation, or something more permanent like a divorce? Do you need a lawyer to help you lay the groundwork for custody and visitation, or would a mediator be more appropriate for your circumstance? Going into co-parenting with a specific and clear plan in mind with help avoid chaos later on.

Set Boundaries

Whether they are verbal or in writing, it’s crucial to set boundaries with your co-parent. And no, we aren’t just talking about physical boundaries. Protecting yourself is key when it comes to a trying co-parenting situation. If you feel emotionally drained every time you communicate with your co-parent, limit communication to the essentials. The same thing comes to pick-up and drop-off. If you know you get into a sparring match when you’re face to face, insist on interacting in a public place. Or consider getting an authorized third party involved so you can keep contact to a minimum.

Stick to Your Commitments

There is nothing more aggravating than someone flaking on plans, especially when doing so disappoints your little loves. Make sure you stay true to your commitments. That means being on time, showing up, and holding each other accountable. Because after all, you’re both doing this for the happiness of your kiddo. Children thrive with consistency. Even though you can’t control their other parent’s actions, do your part to help your kids feel secure and that they can rely on what you say and do.

Know Their Triggers

Look, it’s not your job to regulate your co-parent’s emotions. Clearly, there’s a reason you aren’t parenting together. But if you know from experience there are specific triggers that set them off, try and avoid them. Not only can it help you to avoid a full-scale knock-down-drag-out, but you’re setting an incredible example for your kids when it comes to communication, empathy, and understanding. Yes, damnit. You get a million gold stars.

Keep a Record

At the end of the day, you can do everything right, and things might still go horribly wrong. And you know what? That’s okay. It’s not your fault because, in the end, you are only in control of your words and actions. Don’t beat yourself up. But what you can do is document, document, document. The truth of the matter is, some people can’t co-parent.

So if you start to notice the other parent consistently breaking boundaries, flaking on their commitments, or doing things in general that make life harder for your littles, document it, and use it to support making changes in your co-parenting plans. After all, the most important thing is making sure the kiddos are healthy (emotionally, mentally, and physically) and happy.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s definitely a place to start. Not all co-parenting is unplanned. Some co-parents rock the gig like it’s no big deal because this is how they always knew it was going to be. But more often than not, it’s the result of things just not working out. There is no shame in that. And yes, your kiddos will be okay … dare we say, even well adjusted. So keep your head up. Even though co-parenting might feel like the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life, know that the effort and energy you’re putting into doing this the best you can makes an incredible and positive impact on your little’s life. After all, as a parent, that’s all you can ask.

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