Does Co-Parenting Mean We Should Be Friends

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Parents sitting on the couch with their two children, talking.
Being a great parent is not tied to being friends with your ex.

Does co-parenting and being friends always make sense? It’s great to get along with your ex, especially if you’re co-parenting. However, maintaining civility and communicating as parents in no way suggests that you should be best friends. After all, you already tried that. Setting healthy boundaries and staying in constant, productive communication will help your children and your sanity level.

Hopefully, you and your ex discussed how you want to raise your child before having him/her. If not, you should have that conversation. If you want to raise your child to be empathetic, you should seek out literature on attachment-style parenting and ensure both parents understand the various nuances. Being an effective attachment-style parent doesn’t mean you have to be buddies with your co-parent. You just have to stay on message.

In some cases, trying to be friends may lead to arguments between people. In other cases, refusing to be friends may cause the relationship to become more hostile. It’s different for everyone. Try to treat your ex the same way that you would want your child to treat someone they have just met. That means staying polite and considerate, rather than necessarily staying dependent on one another.

Tips For Successful Co-Parenting When You Are Not Friends

You can be successful co-parents even if you don’t get along. There is no right or wrong way of co-parenting if both of you put your kids first. Here are some tips you should know to make it work.

Treat It Like A Business Relationship

Both of you have the same goals. They include raising your child well and being there for all the important milestones of their lives. Even though the marriage between two people has ended, they may still have a civil relationship. It can be complicated if there was a lot of tension and resentment in the relationship.

Treat your relationship like a business. Restrict your communication to email or text message. You don’t have to meet them face-to-face if you don’t want to. Your ex is on a need-to-know basis. While you should agree on important decisions regarding your child with them, you don’t have to get their permission for everything. This can reduce bitterness if you don’t take the interactions with them so personally.

Be Flexible

While you and your ex-partner may have agreed on a schedule, be flexible if they have to change it. Sometimes you may also have to compromise such as having a Thanksgiving dinner with your ex-partner if your child wants to spend time with both parents during a special event.

Let things go and don’t nitpick on everything your co-parent does because of frustration that has built up over the years of marriage life. That will facilitate calm and civil conversations whether you’re at an event together for your kids or coordinating with them on changes to the schedule.

Have Respect

You may not approve of the different parenting styles your ex-husband or ex-wife uses. However, if they have your child’s best interests at heart, don’t assume that they are in the wrong. Find a way to see the good in the decisions they are making for your kids.

Never talk badly about the other person in front of your children. This can alienate your child and affect your relationship with them. Your children can also feel helpless and insecure in the face of conflict between parents which can affect their emotional development and self-esteem.

Be United In Front Of The Kids

Respect the rules that your co-parent has set even if you don’t agree with all of them. In turn, your co-parent will respect yours. This consistency will prevent kids from playing both of you off each other, or demanding their way because the other parent would have let them do what they wanted at their home.

Sometimes you may have situations where you need to support your ex. For example, your child may be attending the other parent’s birthday party and need to get them a gift. Even if you can’t stand the thought of buying a gift for your ex, you are going to need to put your emotions aside and help them out so that your child can build their relationship with the other person. Your child needs to have a sense of family even if the two of you are divorced. Do what is best for your kids, even if you’re not friends while co-parenting.

Have Open Lines of Communication

A divorced couple still has to communicate if they have a child. You are going to need to communicate with them regularly about issues at school, concerns about your children, and the logistics of where they are and which home they are staying at for the week.

If you do disagree with your ex about something, never make the argument personal, and be respectful. Find a way to see the good in your ex-husband or ex-wife. Don’t ignore your ex if they are trying to talk to you about the children you have together.

Set Boundaries With Your Ex

Do not allow your ex to have plans with the kids on your time unless it has already been agreed upon beforehand. Do not let your ex-husband or ex-wife badger you with questions about your personal life and family after you are divorced. Even if you’re in a co-parenting relationship, you are allowed to set your boundaries with other people.

If one of you has not moved on from the past relationship, this can harm the co-parenting relationship. Even small decisions about your child can escalate into full-blown conflict. You may first need to take some time for yourself to reflect on the relationship and move on from someone who has hurt you or you have hurt.

Being Friends While Co-Parenting

What if you are on good terms with your ex and still have a deep friendship? It isn’t necessarily a bad thing to co-parent while being friends. This is as long as the two of you are comfortable being friends and there are no one-sided romantic feelings between people. A friendship can mean it will be so much easier to discuss issues about your child. Disagreements can be a lot more manageable. It’s easier to find a way to make it work.

However, issues can arise when new romantic partners come up. If one of you has a new girlfriend or boyfriend, they may feel second-place to your children and your ex. On the other hand, they may feel uncomfortable if you talk to your ex about personal matters. It can also complicate things if they perceive your ex to still be in love with you.

It can also confuse your kids who might think that their parents are going to get back together even after the divorce because they get along so well. Other times, your kids may feel like they are second-place to your new partner and the new family you may build even if you love them very much.

It’s important to have open communication with your new romantic partner, your ex, and your kids. Ask yourself first if you have any additional motives for being friends with your ex other than for your kids and if you could still be in love with them. Ensure you’re aware of how your romantic partner feels about the fact that you and your former spouse are friends.

Children In A Co-Parenting Relationship

It’s only natural that your children will want you and your ex to get back together, or at the very least stay close friends. Without over-sharing, it’s okay to tell your kids that you’d rather not spend time with your ex.  For example, you might say, “I’m not ready to spend time with your other parent right now, but I know that they’ll be very happy to spend time with you.”

If parents always appeased their child’s emotions, they’d eat pizza for breakfast and ice cream for dinner. However, it is important to be very in-tune with how your child is feeling throughout the separation process.

Try to keep an open mind about discussing your divorce with your kids. By staying in touch with your child’s emotions, you and your ex can try to maintain a relationship that makes your child comfortable.

However, don’t make the mistake of treating your kids as a friend. This sometimes happens when there isn’t another adult in the house. While you can give them a choice to pick the food they like and their clothes, you probably shouldn’t let them decide important issues such as whether they should go to school or where they should live.

Ultimately, divorce keeps a child from watching their parents struggle through an unhappy marriage. It’s important to try to keep your parenting relationship with your ex from falling into the same traps as your marriage. However, this doesn’t mean you have to be friends while co-parenting.

Discussions about child custody arrangements during a divorce process are extremely important for successful co-parenting in the new normal for your family. Our Family Law experts at Sean Lynch have years of experience and can provide you with advice on your case.

Contact us today for a no-cost case review.


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