Co-parenting: We all have something to learn

By Trish McCourt on January 07, 2013
Ex-etiquette as a parent is challenging to navigate. I have worked in family services as well as early childhood environments and have witnessed all types of co-parenting (and lack thereof). Over the last few years, I have found that I know more and more families with younger children maneuvering these uncharted waters. For most, it is a choppy and unpredictable experience. Every once in a while you see a family who totally got it right and you just want to shout to the world, “Why is this so hard?!”

It took my ex and I about two years to find a place that works for us. Once we got past the bitterness, the awkwardness and the newness of everything, we found a place that has the greatest level of harmony for all of us.

Children will feel at peace when they see their parents speaking in civil, if not friendly, manners. If they can attend an event and easily transition between both parents (as well their respected spouses/relatives), there will be less unnecessary stress upon the children. Imagine being the child in a co-parenting relationship and being able to expect both of your parents to be ever present – just as they might be in a traditional nuclear household? It IS possible. I've seen it.

Picture this: On Christmas Eve, it's dad's week to have the children. His parents and significant other will be arriving for dinner momentarily. Mom and her new husband arrive at the door with dessert and a bottle of wine in hand. Everyone has agreed that the traditional Christmas celebrations centre around the children and everyone has agreed to set differences aside and celebrate WITH the children. Mom and stepdad leave at bedtime and head home, waiting for the kids' call to say they are up and ready for opening gifts from Santa. Mom and stepdad head back over for the magical moments of Christmas morning. Later that day, dad and his significant other troop to mom's house with the kids to finish exchanging gifts and have Christmas dinner with mom and stepdad's extended family. This may sound absurd to some, but I have witnessed a very similar scenario, which I was included as extended family.

As human beings, I think we find it difficult to let our anger go, but the negative energy associated with anger is draining and spreads much more than we can ever imagine. Sometimes it is necessary to establish firm boundaries so that situations that anger us become fewer and farther between. If we can look beyond and still follow the course of action in the best interests of our children, everyone will be happier in the end.

I'm currently reading Ex-etiquette for parents – Good behavior After a Divorce or Separation by Jann Blackstone-Ford and Sharyl Jupe. These two women are friends in co-parenting and write a national advice column, Ex-Etiquette.

If you're trying to find that middle ground of forgiveness and compromise, are there any books or resources you would recommend in navigating these choppy waters?

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