Blended Families Week: Introducing…The Co-Parenting Contract

BY: - 19 Sep '13 | Blended Families

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Sometimes divorce, separation or break ups can be down right bitter. We are often times so focused on the hurt and pain that our significant other has caused, that we lose sight of the children and what’s best for them. When cooler heads prevail and you can think more clearly, at some point, the two of you need to focus on the child(ren), their fragile state and how you can amicably come together with their interest in mind.

Whether you’re a newly single parent or now blending your family, there needs to be some type of “child-centered” agreement. Believe it or not, it’s especially important to do so when you decide to blend your family, so that you will know what is expected of whom and when, at any given time. Remember (and sometimes it’s HARD) put your personal feelings aside and think of your child(ren).

Here is a sample of a co-parenting contract that you might to consider. **DISCLAIMER** We all have to be realistic and understand that we will, under no circumstances, put our children in any dangerous situations. This is only intended as a tool or a guide and the betterment of the children, should it become necessary.

CO-PARENTING CONTRACT

As parents of (insert child’s name), we will hereby agree wholeheartedly to the commitment of co-parenting them by doing the following:

Custodial Parent:

I will not, under any circumstances, keep [non-custodial parent] from seeing our child simply because I am upset, trying to prove a point, or have the intent to sabotage. (Really…think about it…who are you hurting?)

I will communicate with my ex about all aspects of my child’s development. (If you are re-married, keep these conversations short and to the point.)

If I plan to re-marry, I will negotiate and agree on the role that the new step-parent will play in the life of our child. (Be fair and rationale. Do not force any relationships. Let them happen naturally. Do not try to replace a non-custodial parent.)

Non-Custodial Parent:

I will show up for visits when promised and I will keep any and all promises made to my child, to the best of my ability. (This is extremely important. Self-explanatory.)

I will make as many milestone events such as birthdays, recitals, graduations, etc. and not to be limited to such. (Do your best to make PTA meetings, parent-teacher conferences and everything in between if you can.)

I will negotiate and agree on the role that a new step-parent will play in the life of our child. (Be honest and fair about what you are willing to negotiate. If you don’t want another man/woman raising your child…BE THERE!)

Together:

We will not burden our child with our ADULT issues and things that they cannot control. (Children are not built for this. Nor do they deserve it. Let them be kids!)

We will not talk badly or disrespectfully in or out of the presence of one another, while in front of our child. (No matter how badlly you may want to do this, DO NOT! It confuses them and adds more negative emotions for them to deal with on top of other things.)

We will focus our efforts on what our child needs most during this difficult time – which is love, feelings of security and safety, as well as the freedom from feeling guilt or blame that they are the reason that their parents are no longer together. (Reassure them, in word and in deed, that things are going to be OK!)

The basis of the contract is simple: commitment, understanding and respect…POINT BLANK! Feel free to use this tool and even modify it to fit your situation, but no matter what you do…THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

BMWK, Can you think of any additions to the co-parenting contract?

Check out more Blended Family articles on BMWK

About the author

Sheree Adams wrote 117 articles on this blog.

Sheree is a wife and WAHM of three who passionately blogs about marriage, family, health tips and more as Smart & Sassy Mom. Sheree is committed to helping blended families and keeping marriages strong, healthy, fun and SPICY!

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Blended Families Week: Peeling Back the Layers of Co-Parenting

BY: - 19 Sep '13 | Blended Families

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When we blend families in this generation, there is an expectation of one parent to accept the other parent’s children and vice-versa.  I don’t think that’s wrong in any way, but I believe we need to look deeper than a level of acceptance.  There needs to be a mutual respect and preferably a bond between a child and the other parent.  As a single father, I know how important it is to my daughter to feel that she is not being replaced by “another woman.”  It’s also just as important for her to have a relationship with this woman, who is so important that I’m going to bring her around or possibly marry her.

Layers

Co-parenting has so many layers, sometimes it’s difficult to understand the depth of what is going on.  You can be a new step-parent, you can be in a situation where both parties are bringing children to new relationships and of course we have all heard the horror stories about “baby-mama or baby-daddy” drama.  None of these situations are easy.  However, all of these situations are manageable.

Communicate

Peeling back the layers in these situations can bring a lot of clarity and understanding.  The biggest failure I have seen in relationships with layers of parenting is a failure to communicate.  We can eliminate so much drama in our lives and more importantly in the lives of our children when we are on the same page.

Have a united front.

Speaking from experience, when my daughter’s mom got married, I took the time to get to know her husband.  We never had issues about my daughter.  As a matter of fact, we would go to each other to address her needs and after years of growing and building some wisdom on how to deal with my daughter, we OFTEN dealt with her on a completely united front.  Children are intelligent and can manipulate situations, especially when they know the parents are not on the same page.  We eliminated that option.  When my daughter was dealing with a certain issue where we all had discussed it and made a decision, there was no playing family against family or Dad against Step-Dad.

Leave injured feelings out of the equation.

When we have these layers of blended families, we have to take extra steps to parent our children.  Again, nothing is easy about this.  Emotions are often still running high, new step-parents are put in situations where they don’t understand the dynamic of the previous relationship and often the non-custodial parent feels threatened when we don’t communicate.  Co-parenting on many layers can and will work if we will communicate.  The toughest part can be leaving the injured feelings out of the equation.  If we can deal with those feelings, we can work together to parent children amicably.  Also, the step-parent can offer an unbiased opinion in some cases that the parents can’t see.  I believe my daughter having a step-father in her life was a blessing in many ways.

 Work together

Communication is important in co-parenting relationships.  In many ways, it’s more important how you communicate than what you say.  You have to communicate from a place of partnership and respect for each other.  The best interests of the child should always come first.  We often hear people say this, but if you listen to the remainder of their story, that’s not what is happening.  “Best interests” are a subjective standard set by the parents.  Some parents may think it is fine for their daughter to date at 14, while others think 17 is the right age.  They key is for EVERYONE in the co-parenting situation to get on the same page and then adhere to the same agenda.  One parent is not going to get exactly what they want all of the time, but parenting decisions are not personal attacks.  Someone is going to get what they want, someone won’t or there will be some compromise.  This should be a conversation with a resolution between the parents.  The parents have to work together to get past their differences to come up with expectations of their children and each other to work together.

The bottom line is all parties involved must think clearly in a blended family scenario.  There are all kinds of frustrations and past experiences to deviate from focusing on the child.  Clarity, understanding and wisdom make all of the layers of co-parenting more respectable and tolerable over the years.  Most importantly, it helps to raise healthy, well-adjusted, young adults.

BMWK – how do you get beyond the “stuff” so that you are able to co-parent?

Check out more Blended Family articles on BMWK

About the author

Jay Hurt wrote 85 articles on this blog.

Jay Hurt is a Relationship Coach, columnist and author of the book, The 9 Tenets of a Successful Relationship (http://9tenetsonline.com/about-the-book ). Jay’s focus is working with people who want to design better relationships and get more out of life!

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