Conflict, compromise, and collaboration
Coparenting requires collaboration and patience under the best of circumstances. If we’re lucky, we find a partner whose values and parenting style align closely with our own. When conflict arises, it’s usually easily sorted out and, in the meantime, we trust the other person to parent in a way that is compatible with everything we deem important.
Enter the Solo Mom. Whether we’re parenting solo by choice or not, coparenting with a partner whom we are no longer in a relationship with can be challenging, especially when the breakup was not amicable. Solo Moms have to consider their ex and his or her family interests, as well as any step-parents who may come into the picture. The situation can be complex but certainly not impossible. The first step toward maintaining coparenting sanity is being aware of the issues that may arise. Here is a list of common coparenting issues in which compromise and collaboration are needed to resolve conflict.
Access. The number-one issue that can undo successful coparenting is access to the children. When couples split up, the relief of being away from a stressful relationship is soon overshadowed by the realization that some separation from your children is inevitable. The challenge becomes coparenting cooperatively and without creating unhealthy conflict both for yourselves and for the children. The first compromise we make in coparenting with an ex is dividing our children’s time and accepting that we won’t always be happy with the results.
Visitation schedule. Coming to an agreement over visitation can be difficult. Parents who’ve lived under one roof and had unlimited access to their children often feel robbed when setting out a visitation schedule. It’s tempting to make demands and to point out the injustices, but the truth is, this part was always going to be hard. Collaboration and, ultimately, compromise, are needed to make the situation as fair as possible for everyone involved, including the kids.
Daily routines. As you can imagine, splitting custody of your kids with an ex means your kids will be out of your control for some amount of time. In some cases, parents are able to agree on daily routines to keep things consistent for the kids. But more often than not, the kids’ schedules will be different depending on where they’re staying. When away, the kids may stay up late, sleep in late, and spend more or less time doing certain things than they would in your house. And as much as we’d like to try to control the situation, we can’t. Letting go of the desire to control their time with your ex is a necessary compromise.
Medical care. In some cases, medical care can become an issue when coparenting. With issues such as food sensitivities and immunizations making headlines, parents may find themselves disagreeing about the best course of action for their children’s health. If an agreement cannot be reached, the courts may have to decide which parent will prevail. In making coparenting medical decisions, we need to consider our options carefully and pick our battles.
Healthy living. The subject of “healthy living” is a hot topic and may become an issue for parents with differing viewpoints on health and well-being. It’s easy when a doctor tells us clearly that something needs to change to improve our child’s health. It’s not so clear when parents have their own ideas about what is best. Collaboration about nutrition and exercise is easier when parents take a big-picture view of their child’s health. Agree to work on the overall health goals, but let each parent decide on his or her own approach.
Education. Couples are often in agreement about the education of their children, but exes who are coparenting may encounter several challenges. For the sake of consistency, one parent may be favored for physical custody so that the children can stay in one school. The costs of education, including tuition for private schools and participation in school activities, may cause conflict when parents can’t agree. Collaboration and compromise must include consideration for the best interests of the child, as well as what is financially sustainable for both parents.
Gifts. We’ve all heard tales of the “weekend parent” who spoils the kids rotten to make up for his or her absence. When coparenting with an ex whom we don’t get along with, the urge to “one-up” the other parent can be hard to resist. When the kids come home with new toys and tales of exciting outings, it can make the other parent feel inadequate. Avoid conflict by embracing the other parent’s generosity. Help your kids pay that generosity forward.
Extracurricular activities. As our kids get older, their lives get busier with activities. More commitments may lead to conflict, especially when the other parent has to be responsible for getting the kids to and from activities that they may not have signed up for. Ideally, as coparents, you’ll be able to agree on which activities are best for the kids. Find ways to distribute the responsibilities as evenly as possible with respect to the needs and obligations of each parent. Be flexible.
Your children will benefit greatly from having parents who can collaborate rather than fight over every detail. When collaboration isn’t possible, compromise is the next best thing. Be prepared to give a few inches here and there. And, remember, at the end of the day, the goal is to ensure that your kids have the best possible lives, free of unnecessary conflict and full of all the love and support their family can give them.
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Amy Rivers is a writer and mother of two. She has a master’s degree with concentrations in psychology and political science, and enjoys writing both fiction and nonfiction pieces about women and women’s issues. Her debut novel, Wallflower Blooming, was released in August 2016. You can follow her on Twitter at @WritingRivers and learn more about her work at her website, www.amyrivers.com.
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