A family breakup often results in children being co-parented. This is when two parents share their duties to raise their children. It is a great way to role model what a healthy, low-conflict relationship can look like in a separated family.
However, it comes with challenges.
It can be complex for children to live between two homes. To make it work takes dedication, understanding and perseverance. Yet it is possible. Successful co-parenting can create a wonderful life for your children who gets to spend quality time with each parent.
TIPS TO HELP CO-PARENTED KIDS LIVE IN TWO HOUSES
Be super organised
Organisation is key to co-parenting, especially when it comes to your child’s living arrangements. Making sure school uniforms, medical items and other essentials are in the right place at the right time is paramount. Lists are a godsend for handover time to ensure everything moves between homes as it should. Work with your ex-partner to find the easiest solutions. Having a systematic approach to practicalities will make for smoother co-parenting and less stress for your children.
Create new routines
Children thrive from routine and living between two homes allows the opportunity to introduce new routines which work as coping mechanisms. Perhaps spend time with your child before they leave your home, or when they return, doing a certain activity. Things like cuddles on the couch and reading a book together before they go. Or their favourite dinner or a trip to the park on their return. Having these comforting moments when they know what to expect will help them feel calm and in control.
The things that matter
Consider what really matters to your children. It will be different to what matters to you. For example, while you are focusing on getting school uniform washed and ready for handover, they may be fretting about leaving a family pet or missing a friend who lives nearby. Tune-in on their world and find out how they feel. You can then reach out to them on their level, reassure them and put solutions in place to make them feel better.
Let them know you love them
All children, especially younger ones, can question love during a family separation. Mum and dad no longer love each other, so do they love them? This can be exacerbated when they are being moved between homes. If they are old enough, explain that this arrangement allows both parents to give them love and even when they are at the other parent’s home, you still love them just as much. There are so many ways to show your kids you love them, even when you’re not with them.
Communication between everyone
Excellent communication in every aspect of co-parenting is hugely important. This includes between co-parents to ensure everything runs smoothly and a united front is being displayed to your children. However, communication is also important between you and your children. Make sure they understand the plans. Tell them where they are staying, when they are coming home and ask if they have any worries. Also talking to your child about what you will be doing while they are away, and arranging to contact them during that time can make all the difference.
Get the changeover right
Changeover time can be upsetting for children, certainly in the early days of a new co-parenting arrangement. If your child sees you are upset, they will feel this too. If they see conflict between their parents at change-over, it will make it harder still. Spend time with your child doing something nice before they leave so they feel loved and encourage them to feel excited to see the other parent. If changeover is a real struggle arrange to do it via playgroup or school. One parent drops them off in the morning and the other parent picks them up. This can alleviate the emotional wrench of physically going from one parent to the other.
Be prepared to be flexible
Life has an uncanny way of changing our carefully laid plans. Accept this can happen and resolve to work around them as effectively as possible. Children’s lives are ever-changing with new schools, different sports and changing friend groups. What works one month, may not work 3-months later. However brilliantly you and you partner may feel you have pinned-down this co-parenting thing, you still need to be open to adapting it in a way that may not be ideal for you. Remember, put your children first every time.