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First Day of Spring… New Beginnings?

First Day of Spring… New Beginnings?

New Year’s Day is not the only day of the year to make a resolution – any day will work.  

As the calendar turned the page on the first day of Spring 2024, we may have had to admit (to ourselves at least) that many of our New Year’s resolutions may have fallen by the wayside. But, if, “drink more water”, “get more sleep”, and “eat less red meat” were among our worthy pursuits that we pledged starting January 1, even if we have faltered, we can course correct and keep trying.

How many people made a resolution to be a better co-parent in 2024? Not that many? Well, maybe spring is the time to do it! This resolution may be unusual, but it is a commendable one! The journey to being a better co-parent has no timeline or finish line or even a clear form of measurement but your commitment to this resolution may repay you (your family and your wallet) in spades. So, as the first quarter of the year closes, perhaps you should evaluate how you and your co-parent are doing. Should Spring bring about a renewal? A commitment to do better?   

But how can we become a better co-parent? What common traits make a good co-parent?

We don’t mean to oversimplify the difficult issues parties face when they decide to live separate and apart – the financial stressors alone can trigger anxiety and emotion that can often bubble over to parties as they try to navigate their new roles as co-parents – but some of the advice we have for our clients on how to be successful co-parents is quite straightforward. In fact, we believe that most people already have these tools in their arsenal. You use these methods when trying to help resolve an issue between relatives, friends, or colleagues or when trying to mediate a conflict between their child and a sibling, friend, or teammate. Of course, when trying to implement these strategies to our own partner relationships, sometimes, it may be harder to see the forest for the trees.

Here are just a few practices to keep in mind, and strive to employ in your daily co-parenting communications/interactions:

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

Disagreements happen. People have different opinions and perspectives. Certainly parents have different views about what is in the best interests of their children. How people disagree with one another is the important focus.

Don’t assume there is only one right voice/perspective/outcome – yours. Don’t be dismissive of the other parent’s voice; listen to and try to understand the other parent’s perspective and reasoning. Listening and understanding does not mean you have to, or will, agree. Rather, listening and understanding shows the other person respect and when parties respect one another they are able to work cooperatively to problem solve and find compromise.

Don’t sweat the small stuff.

For example, when parent A keeps score and tallies up 10 incidents where the parent B is 5 minutes late for pick-up or drop off, parent A will build up resentment and anger.  When parent A voices their displeasure to parent B, it is often met with resentment and anger, in return, viewing parent A as petty and rigid. So, when parent A requires some grace for running late or needing parent B to care for the child during their time, parent B will not likely be open and willing, given the history.  

Instead, if the parent A showed the other parent patience, flexibility and kindness, when they requested an adjustment to the regular schedule due to traffic or a last-minute work demand, their request might also be met with patience, flexibility and kindness.

Give the benefit of the doubt.

Or restated, do not think the worst of the other parent. Do not attach tone, intention, or motives to the other parent and/or their behaviour where it does not need to be. In fact, why not try assuming they have the best possible intentions? A change of mind frame when experiencing frustration can change your lense on an entire situation. For example, if your spouse confirms that they will take the day off to take your child to a medical appointment, don’t immediately assume they are trying to exclude you and control the child’s medical care. Instead, assume they had good intentions: perhaps they thought they were doing something helpful by handling this specific appointment themselves, one less day off work and less inconvenience for you! A measured conversation about what your preferences are (eg. “thanks for handling this but I’d like to attend as well, does that work for you?”) can help you both move forward positively.

On March 1, 2021, our Federal Divorce Act was amended and it now includes duties for both parties to follow, which I propose reframes some of the habits above, specifically there are requirements to protect a child from conflict arising from divorce proceedings to the best of the parties ability. Being a good co-parent is in the best interests of your children and can make co-parenting less stressful, fraught, and conflicted.

If you would like to turn a new leaf in honor of Spring and make a resolution to become a better co-parent please don’t hesitate to contact us. We can share the skills we have learned and help you resolve any outstanding conflict in a constructive way.