A woman walked into the firm last week wearing a t-shirt that said, "Don't grow up, it's a trap!" We've all had this feeling before. Many of us have probably seen the sentiment expressed on a t-shirt, a random sign or a social media post, and most of us laugh and think it's funny. And it is, until you think about it. Being an adult can be hard and it's nice to commiserate and understand that the "hard" isn't something reserved exclusively for a few, but that everyone knows that feeling. Yet sometimes we use that feeling as a crutch that prevents us from reaching our full potential - that elusive "grown up" that was so easy to envision back before we were expected to actually behave that way because we're all grown now. This phenomenon of being grown, but not feeling (or necessarily) acting grown up is never more apparent than when a divorced couple is attempting to co-parent. This is one of those "adult" situations that just call for all of us to behave like the grown ups that we are.
- Have every intention of offering compassion and support in the co-parenting relationship.
- Focus regularly on the positive qualities your ex exhibits as a parent instead of remembering the negatives in connection with the relationship between the two of you.
- Mention those positive qualities about your ex to the children. Make it clear to the kids that you think your ex is a great parent even if you weren't great together. This can help the kids understand that they need both Mom and Dad.
- Deal with any conflict with new partners regarding the co-parenting relationship yourself. Don't dump it on your ex. The purpose of the co-parenting relationship is to do what is best for your kids - keep it focused on that.
- Try to keep in mind how you can make your ex's life easier without ignoring any of your own needs/wants. So you aren't together anymore - that doesn't make you enemies. Kindness and understanding can go a long way towards creating a positive co-parenting relationship and environment for the kids.
- Observe schedules - keeping to agreed upon arrangements is just as important as realizing that sometimes flexibility will be necessary. When plans have to be changed, be gracious and remember how you would like to be treated if the roles were reversed.
When you break down the advice on how to be a good co-parent, you actually end up with a lot of the seemingly simple instructions we were all offered in kindergarten by well meaning teachers that wanted to teach us how to interact with our peers: be kind, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, you get what you get and you don't throw a fit, share, be a good friend, etc. Since then we've all done a lot of growing. We're a lot taller. But there's a big difference between growing and being a grown up. When attempting to create a positive co-parenting relationship it's extremely important that you understand that difference and aim for "grown up."