Whether you’re co-parenting as a result of a separation or divorce, or you’ve chosen to start your family with a platonic partner and decided to live in two different homes, you may be wondering how to raise your child with your co-parent without actually living together.
This situation can be challenging as you aren’t physically together when it comes to making decisions regarding your child’s upbringing. However, children can grow up happily and comfortably in two homes. You and your co-parent can create a secure environment where your child feels loved and protected by both their parents, even though you’re not cohabiting.
If you’re a co-parent wondering how to raise a happy child whilst living in two separate houses, here are a few tips for you.
1. Create a nurturing environment so that your child can feel at home in each house
To feel secure, your children should have a space of their own in each home. It’s not because you only have custody every other weekend that they should be forced to sleep on the couch, right? On the contrary, they should have their own bedroom with their belongings and a decor that they love. Make sure that they have everything they might need including toys, clothes, furniture, etc.
Additionally, when they transition from one house to the other, don’t forget to bring all of their teddy bears and other items that they’re attached to along with them, especially if they are little.
2. Set up co-parent meetings and talk regularly
Good communication between co-parents is a key factor of good parenting. When you don’t live under the same roof and share custody, you need to keep each other posted regarding your child’s day-to-day life. Additionally, you must ensure that you’re on the same page, even if you don’t agree on everything.
Communicate regularly, whether this is by phone, text message or email. Schedule co-parent meetings to address more serious issues, but also to maintain a healthy relationship with your co-parent. However, this obviously doesn’t mean that you should call your co-parent every day! It’s crucial that you both respect each other’s space.
These regular meetings and conversations are crucial to guarantee that you’re not missing out on anything concerning your child. Whether they have started a new extracurricular activity, received an excellent grade or are invited to a birthday party, you should always share the news.
3. Be ready to be flexible and make concessions
No matter how much you respect and care for each other, you’ll probably disagree with your co-parent from time to time. This may be because of a divergence of opinion regarding meals, bedtime or forms of punishment. In the end, there can be many reasons for disagreeing when you’re a parent! However, you must know how to pick your battles. It’s true that there are some things that you shouldn’t accept, while certain others are fine. Think of your child first and negotiate if needed.
4. Learn how to handle your disagreements
You’re probably aware that children are very much affected by parental conflicts. They love both of you, and seeing their parents arguing can really hurt their feelings. You should also never criticize nor disrespect your co-parent in front of your child. Hence the importance of dealing with any potential disagreements quickly and calmly, no matter how angry you might be.
It’s vital to learn to keep your self-control. And if you have something to say, it’s best to set up a meeting with your co-parent in order to discuss things further (and also when you’ve had the chance to calm down).
5. Create a co-parenting agreement
You and your co-parent should write a co-parenting agreement, even though it won’t be legally binding. This document will help you to set boundaries and to detail your parenting roles.
It should include and explain the rules in each house, custody arrangements, values, mutual goals for the child, vacation time, how you make decisions regarding the child, how to split child care expenses, amongst many other things. Here is a very thorough template of a co-parenting agreement.
6. Both partners should have quality time with their kids
Kids thrive when both of their parents play a central role in their life. Whether you’re involved in a romantic relationship and live with your partner or not, you should spend quality time and have an active relationship with your kids, and so should your co-parent.
Children need to feel loved by both parents. They want to see that you’re happy to invest your time with them. Go to the cinema or the restaurant, play a game, enjoy craft activities or just stay home to watch TV. There are countless things you can enjoy together.
7. Two houses, same rules
Children need consistency and stability to feel secure, to be less stressed and to ensure a healthy development. Rules (bedtime, meal times, rewards and punishments, etc.) should be the same in each house. Make sure you’re on the same page with your co-parent on this.
8. Determine the best custody arrangement
Choosing the child custody arrangement can be complicated. Not only must you consider your child’s age and needs, but you should also take into consideration their personality, their activities as well as you and your co-parent’s career and social life.
However, remember that your child’s interests are always your top priority. Take the time to discuss this with your co-parent in order to choose the best custody arrangement possible. Additionally, if your child is old enough, let them have a say in this decision.