When you have children with someone and then undergo a divorce or separation, parenting takes on a completely different aspect. How to successfully coparent after a relationship breakdown or divorce can be a steep learning curve for most people and takes a great deal of cooperation, collaboration and patience from all involved.
It can be very tricky to bring up children when you have very different approaches to parenting than your ex partner and it can be frustrating to feel undermined or have your parenting methods criticised or even ignored whilst your children are staying with their other parent. This can be exaggerated even further when new partners and families are blended together.
It is always best to try and sort out any circumstances that are upsetting or bothering you with regards to the differences in the way that you wish to bring up your children through talking in an amicable way, even though this can be difficult. Discussing openly how the differences in your approaches to parenting are causing some behaviour changes can sometimes enable you to reach agreement on how best to move forwards.
The most obvious solution is to make a consistent plan of action that suits everyone involved that can be implemented wherever the children are staying and whoever they are spending time with. If you had particular rules before the divorce or separation, then these could be continued by both parents to provide a framework to help everyone adjust to the new living and contact arrangements.
If ex partners cannot agree on the major parenting decisions this can lead to wildly differing set-ups in each of the family homes. This can be very confusing for children, and can cause upsets and retaliations between parents and their offspring. For example if Mum says bedtime is 7.30pm but Dad always lets them stay up until they want to go to bed, Mum will have a hard time enforcing her rules at her house, and the children may act up or if Dad always insists on eating a meal at the table but Mum lets everyone eat on the go, this can make it harder for Dad to get everyone sat down when they are with him and so on. These are simple examples, but more dangerous scenarios lie along the line when children are slightly older if curfews and after school activities are seen differently by each parent. Children will feel very unsettled by these different ways of parenting and it can lead to destructive behaviours in the longer term.
Try to find some common ground on some basic rules that can be adhered to in both households. This should be done without placing blame, and in a tone of trying to find the most beneficial solutions that suit the children through consistency, and seeing that both parents agree on the main points.
Sometimes agreements on certain issues can’t be reached, and if it is causing more harm arguing then it can be explained that mum and dad have different rules in each of their houses, but that their rules are what should be abided by. This may cause some issues where children mess around or behave badly to take advantage of the discrepancy between the home rules but as long as they are not causing harm, children will have to learn to adjust, which they do. The words “that’s ok, but in our house we do …..” are often useful in the days after children return after time with the other parent. This is no bad thing. Try to always think of issues from their point of view and in their best interest and put aside your emotional issues regarding your ex and parenting to work out a plan of action that works for your family.