You are long since divorced. You are still parents to the children. You have been parallel parenting long enough.
For the purposes of this article I will be referring to the following as definition:
Parallel Parenting is described as each parent having their own way of doing things in their own home. There is little to no collaboration of efforts, and generally, each person respects the differences in the homes.
Co-parenting would be the relationship that is collaborative in nature. helping each other where you may be lacking in any resource (time money, child care etc)
In the beginning of a couple in separation, attempts are made to work together. Things happen and over time you both pull away from supporting each other. Each has your own never discussed reasons.
During this time, it is hard on all of you. Trying to understand when you can or should call upon each other, when you should learn for yourselves, and what information is to be shared. To re-establish boundaries with each other. You might not be able to agree on the terms and so you may need to parallel parent for a while, maybe a long while, or as long as it takes for everyone to be comfortable or healed.
In the beginning, you are re-writing your relationship boundaries. One of you needs time and space. The other needs to experience parenting on their own, maybe for the first time. For us, unfortunately, we got to a point where we could only communicate through email. And exchanges of the children always had physical distance and no verbal contact.
Fast forward to now, we are both well established in our new lives. The children are succeeding and thriving. Their father has remarried. The children and I have moved out of the marital home. The children are growing older. It has been a long hard road and I can report that we are finally seeing the payoff.
Is now is the time to re-evaluate co-parenting?… is parallel parenting really the way we need to continue? Can we move toward more co-parenting? Battle lines have been drawn around clothes sharing, house calls, exchanges dates and times. Items that belong to the children at his house are not allowed to come to my house. Outside of the access schedule, there is no phone calls or visits. It works, but is it really the best option, especially for the kids?
So how does one open-up a long standing unwritten contract to renegotiate terms? I mean, if unions can negotiate their way to a contract after long labour disputes, why can’t we?…
This will take strategy and careful planning, it will also take the patience mastered in the years of handling baby colic and toddler tantrums. So here goes nothing…:
1. You are the one thing You can control and so first things first, You must be different – Your communications need to start with trust, openness and willingness. It cannot be approached with fear, anger or reaction. You might need to bring in partners to help coach you along the way. This can include new and old partners to help you figure it all out. This is a monumental task and so you should pay as much attention to your support network as you do your strategies.
2. It started about a year ago – Your first attempts to communicate may be direct in nature; a request to meet with a discussion about your ideas. Take down your ego, and offer to meet and discuss the issues together at a table. The offer needs to be honest and genuine. Treat it like a business discussion, to keep the personal issues aside…It may quickly digress. No harm. No foul. It’s not a race. Take your time and attempt the process once you are over the latest events. Know when to pull the plug on the discussions ahead of the discussion!
3. The process of reinventing your parenting path is new – So no hard feelings. We have never been great collaborators, and now is the time for acceptance, patience, and remember to be kind to each other, especially yourself! There is no map and it may be a wandering path.
4. Continue to offer olive branches – In lieu of waiting for both to be good at this, continue to offer the information and ask for information as often as reasonable. My most recent olive branch was an invite to a public event for our youngest. The event is large enough we don’t have to be in proximity. We can choose to maintain distance and never make eye contact. Or if either chooses, attempts could be made to share space too.
5. The process is to plant a seed and watch it grow – So be patient. Have you ever watched a tree grow? You can stare at it all day long and never see a single change. But when you look back years later, you can see the tree has obviously grown. This situation is no different. Treat it with respect, nurture it into health, and one day the returns will be there when you look back.
6. And if not now, then later – Don’t fret! it can be discouraging every setback and every new challenge. They don’t have to be the end, they can exist and mean nothing more. All relationships stumble and have grumbling. Accept what is and move ahead anyway. Maybe now isn’t the time. and that’s okay too!
7. Respond, don’t react – This one is crucial. You heart pounds when you get a text or email as your body has a visceral reaction programmed from years of experience. But do these reactions still serve you? Are these protection mechanisms still necessary? You may need to call in the professionals for help with this one. At the very least let’s work towards giving your responses time. Most items can wait when you really think about it. if the items can wait, let them. And make sure to re-read and edit your response until you are satisfied that you point is made without jaded
In the end, what is most important is peace. If you can work together in some respect and not others this is just as acceptable as any other situation you see. We are all as different as snowflakes. For the sake of the children, do what you can to keep the peace between you is the best.
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