This article was written by Teresa Virani, Co-Founder of coparently – a scheduling and communication tool for divorced and separated parents to organize & manage shared custody.

Adjusting to co-parenting after divorce or separation is often a huge transition for dads. And when you haven’t been the primary caregiver before, it’s also a daunting task. If you haven’t been heavily involved in children’s daily routine, the separation will be a big change for you and your kids. There are four pillars for building a strong co-parenting relationship that puts your children first.

Studies show that children adjust best to their parents’ separation when they have ongoing and positive relationships with both parents. So get involved in your child’s life and stay involved. Work with your co-parent to make sure all of these pillars are in place:

Communication
Communication is hard for separated and divorced parents. But you cannot avoid it if you are committed to taking a child-first approach to your co-parenting arrangements. Your objective is to establish clear, child-focused, conflict-free communication. Decide which type of communication works best for you. If you’d rather avoid speaking, then use written communication channels – which are less open to emotion, opinion or interpretation.

Set a business-like tone in your communications with the other parent and speak to them as you would to a colleague at work. You don’t have to be friends; simply be professional and courteous to each other.

Try to make requests rather than demands, and always be polite and civil in your communications. It also goes a long way if you really listen to what the other parent is saying.

When your co-parent sends you a request or asks for your input on a parenting decision, respond in a timely manner. And when you’re the initiator, make sure you give the other parent a reasonable amount of time to respond. Be realistic.

Commit to communicating regularly and consistently. This shows your kids you are parenting as a team with their best interests at heart.

Compromise
Good co-parenting often means compromising. Research shows that parents who are more flexible are able to co-parent more effectively than those who are more rigid. There is no single “right way” to parent your children; as long as your children are safe and well looked after by their co-parent, don’t try to assert your will into how things are done in the other household. That said; try to avoid being “Disneyland Dad” where “dad’s house” means funhouse.

Be flexible about requests for changes in the custody schedule for special occasions or vacations. Birthdays fall when they fall and if the other parent’s birthday occurs during your parenting time, be reasonable if your ex wants to celebrate with your children. If the idea of doing your ex a favor is intolerable, then do it for your kids. They have the right to celebrate birthdays and family occasions with both sides of the family – don’t take that away from them just to get back at the other parent.

Cooperation
Cooperation in co-parenting means you share the responsibility for raising your children together and treat each other with respect and consideration. As separated parents, you will need to work together to manage your parenting time schedule, transitions, school, shared expenses, childcare and activities. You will also need to coordinate doctor and dentist appointments, sick days, birthday parties and family gatherings. Seek out the tools you need to manage your co-parenting arrangements in a business-like way.

By cooperating with your co-parent, you show your children their needs take priority and that you are willing to do whatever it takes to be the best parent possible.

Even though you are separated, you will continue to make important parenting decisions together: which school your children attend, which doctor your child goes to, whether your child needs therapy, and so on. Co-parenting works best when both parents take an active role in important decisions about their children’s mental and physical well-being. Cooperation gives you both support through the big life decisions so that neither of you is ever left feeling solely responsible.

The definition of cooperation is the process of working together toward the same end.  This means continuing to work together to raise healthy, happy kids who needn’t choose sides.

Consistency
Studies show that children adjust much more easily to divorce or separation when both parents remain present in their life and provide a loving, stable and consistent environment for them to grow up in.

Consistency doesn’t mean that you have to parent in the same way or that a daily routine must be mirrored in both houses. But routine is very important to kids – it gives them a sense of security and safety. When expectations around chores, rules, mealtimes, homework, TV and social media are consistent in both houses, children can develop the self-discipline they need to be successful in life.

Consistency in bedtime and bedtime rituals is very important for children of all ages. For kids to develop healthy sleep habits, they should go to bed at roughly the same time every night. A consistent bedtime routine in both homes is really comforting for children – especially for younger ones. Discuss bedtime and bedtime rituals with your co-parent and find a plan that you can both agree on and consistently achieve.

For children living between two homes, consistency on transition days can really help to reduce stress. Have a consistent transition time and a routine for drop off and pick up. Your children should know what to expect and when to expect it.

With consistent co-parenting, your children will be more relaxed, more willing to join in with chores and family routines, and easier and much more fun to be around.

With these four pillars in place, you will have the foundation for developing a successful co-parenting relationship. Which is great news for your children! Dads play an important role in their children’s development and overall well-being. Numerous studies have shown that kids with involved dads do better socially and academically than children who have a distant or absent relationship with their fathers. In fact, the crucial, difference-making factor is having an actively involved dad – not where he lives in relation to the child.

So even though co-parenting is a lot of work, it is truly worth your effort.

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