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7 key co-parenting tips

You and your spouse have lived in Frankfort all your lives. You starting dating in high school and got married not long after. Ten years later, you have two children together. You both work and you have been very successful.

Unfortunately, your marriage has not seen the same success. It has been falling apart for the last two years, and you both know it. You wanted to make it work and try counseling, but your spouse wanted to end it. He or she finally just filed for divorce.

Putting the kids first

When you got that paperwork, you made a critical decision. You decided that you would make the kids the most important part of this process. You would do everything possible to stay in their lives and be a great parent. You value their happiness, even though you know you and your ex may find it hard to stay civil with so much history together.

To help, here are a few excellent co-parenting tips:

  1. Refrain from accusations. Instead, have discussions with your ex when things are not working out. You may feel your ex is at fault -- he or she lets the kids stay up late watching television, rather than doing their homework, for example -- but an accusation doesn't get you anywhere. A civil discussion will.
  2. Do not try to one-up each other. Don't give the children candy you know your ex doesn't let them have, for instance. Don't set lax rules on purpose to make them love you more. Focus on being a good parent and helping your kids grow and develop, not using them to feel superior.
  3. Stick to the rules you agree on. Kids need consistency. Set up a parenting plan and then follow it closely.
  4. Try to balance fun and structure. Divorced parents only see their kids for portions of the week or the month. There's a temptation to just have fun when you have the kids, but don't forget that they need structure and rules. If you both just try to be the fun parent, are your children really developing the life skills they need?
  5. Never jump to conclusions. If you think your ex isn't following the plan, call and see if you can talk. Ask questions. Find answers. Don't just assume your gut is right and fire back without learning the facts.
  6. Remember that your kids are going to look for boundaries. They know you aren't together, as a couple, so they'll test all of the rules in both homes. Be ready for it and have a plan.
  7. Get your plan in writing. Talk to your ex and figure out your roles. Talk about strengths and weakness. Plan to parent together, even when you're not staying married.

Divorced parents can still be terrific parents. Just make sure you know your rights and what legal steps -- such as creating an official parenting plan -- can help you succeed.

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