Parenting as a separated couple doesn't have to be as tricky as it sounds, if you both follow some key rules.
Co-parenting can be a complex arrangement to navigate. At last count, there were 2.4 million separated families in Great Britain, amounting to 3.6 million children whose parents are attempting to iron out a ‘separately but together’ parenting plan that both works for everyone.
There are some great examples of successful co-parenting families out there. Take model and entrepreneur Miranda Kerr and her ex-husband Orlando Bloom, for example; they have managed to naturally blend their families, providing 10-year-old son Flynn with a stable and happy environment in which to grow up, regardless of their divorce.
“From the day we decided to not be together, [Orlando and I] made a commitment to each other to put Flynn’s needs first,” Miranda Kerr told Marie Claire UK in her recent cover interview. “Having that as a guideline was really great.”
But of course, it’s not always easy in practice. Whether there are complications arising from different parenting styles, tricky schedules, or perhaps new relationships, you can bet you won’t be the only one who’s experienced them. With that in mind, we asked Anita Cleare, parenting expert and author of The Work/Parent Switch, to share her most valuable co-parenting tips.
Anita’s expert quotes on co-parenting:
1. “Always remember there is no single right way to parent”
“It’s always easy to see what other people are doing wrong in parenting. Just remember how judgmental you used to be before you had a toddler/tween/teen!” explains Anita. But the key thing to remember? There is no one, specific way that works best.
“The best parenting style is warm and loving but with firm boundaries,” she advises, adding: “However, within that there are a lot of difficult judgement calls to make and it’s inevitable that different parents will make slightly different decisions. Parenting as a team means seeing the value that your co-parent brings, putting aside your differences and focusing on the constructive partnership working, so that you can find a way forward that meets everyone’s needs.”
2. “Telling your ex they are parenting wrong is a conversation that is unlikely to go well”
In fact, Anita imagines “it will probably provoke confrontation.”
Instead, the parenting expert suggests “trying to find ways to talk about the issues without blaming. Conversations that start with, ‘I find this difficult’ tend to be more successful than, ‘You do this wrong.’ And remember to listen and try to see things from your co-parent’s point of view,” she adds.
3. “Agree some basic communication rules straight up”
The most helpful thing you can do at the very start of a co-parenting arrangement is to discuss your own, shared communication, suggests Anita.
“It’s really important to talk about things when the children aren’t around and avoid disagreements in front of them. So, agree on a regular way to communicate that helps you both to stay child-focused and calm.”
4. “Children need to be kept out of their parents’ disputes”
It’s hard when there’s hurt or fired-up emotion clouding your relationship with your ex-partner, but Anita maintains that “parental conflict is very damaging for children.”
The most important things to remember, even if you’re having a tough time of it? “Don’t criticise your ex in front of your children, or try to undermine how they feel about their mum or dad. Your child needs to feel comfortable to talk about your ex in a loving and positive way,” the expert advises.
5. “Try to agree on the big stuff and let the little stuff go”
This one is important. “Parents will naturally have slightly different approaches and that’s ok, children will get used to that,” explains Anita, adding that you must “stay child-focused and avoid point-scoring” to keep things happy and healthy.
“If you try to do your personal best for your children then, no matter what your ex does or doesn’t do, that will make a big difference,” she reassures.
6. “Your children deserve the best from both of you, so work as a team to help them get it”