Parenting sure was different when we were kids! Between technological advances, increased competition for college admissions, and evolving emotional expectations for the parent-child relationship, chances are that you’re employing skills and behaviors that you weren’t able to pick up from your own upbringing.
Nowadays, 24.1% of people who get divorced are living with children under age 18, which makes for an even less traditional family dynamic. If you’ve been through it, then you know that divorce means a reimagining rather than a breakdown of your family. However, you also probably know that rewriting your family’s story takes maturity and effort.
That’s why common co-parenting resources are desperately in need of an update. You know that you want to raise happy, healthy, successful people, but it may be unclear how to accomplish that when your children’s lives are so different from your own at their age.
If you’re reading this, it means you’re invested enough in your children’s lives to do a little research, which probably means that you’re doing just fine. Nonetheless, here are three simple tweaks you can make to bring your parenting style into the modern age.
1. Take advantage of online parenting resources and apps
You’re a young, tech-savvy parent, so we’re willing to bet that you or someone you know got divorced on the web. Well, what the information age can do for your family doesn’t stop there.
There are loads of resources and apps intended to make co-parenting a little bit easier. They can help keep you organized, keep both parents accountable, or even facilitate communication with your ex.
Their offerings vary a lot, so we encourage you to do some quick research to decide which one is right for your family. This might even serve as an easy olive branch for a high-conflict co-parenting relationship. Choosing a co-parenting platform is a great opportunity to collaborate and get excited about something, together.
Some of these resources might charge for their services, but they tend to be well worth the expense, especially if you and your ex-partner are already struggling. However, some local family courts provide some basic information free of charge.
Usually these are limited to information about how to devise a co-parenting schedule, but it’s definitely something worth looking into. Just keep in mind that you do probably want to stick to your local court’s resources, because family law is mostly legislated at the state level.
2. Involve your child (in age appropriate ways)
What parent hasn’t had the experience of thinking, “Wow, my kid is so much smarter than me”? Well, maybe they have more insight about how they would like to be raised than you previously realized.
This looks different depending on your child’s age and maturity level. For a very young child, you’ll just want to stay very attuned to their needs and anxieties, and then ask questions based on what you see. For an older kid, you can try asking open-ended questions like, “What would make moving between mom’s and dad’s house easier?”
This isn’t just about taking your child’s needs seriously, which you were hopefully already doing. It has to do with the fact that kids these days can be a lot more sophisticated.
Your children are digital natives, which might mean that they have more effective research skills than you do, even if they don’t think of it that way. Divorce is a pretty intense emotional experience for most kids, so if they went through it when they were already literate, they probably stumbled upon some co-parenting ideas without you even knowing about it.
That’s why all you need to do is provide an environment where they feel welcome to contribute. Let them know that you’ll value and consider their input, and they’ll do the rest of the work for you.
3. Resist the urge to stalk your co-parent’s social media
Maybe your ex’s Instagram is like quicksand for you, or maybe you’ve already reached this very healthy conclusion on your own. Either way, you probably haven’t really considered the effect this behavior might have on your co-parenting relationship.
Basically, social media stalking is always a form of spying, but when it relates to how your ex is parenting, it’s a kind of spying with more palpable consequences.
Co-parenting undeniably requires a lot of trust. If you erode that trust by using something you saw on Facebook against your co-parent, it invites them to indulge some adversarial behavior of their own.
Instead, you need to do everything in your power not to incite a war. If you can’t be forgiving about your ex handing out one-too-many lollipops or letting your kid stay up an hour later than you would have, then “out of sight, out of mind” really is the way to go.
Most social media platforms give you the option of “silencing” someone from your feed without blocking or unfollowing them, so your co-parent doesn’t even ever have to know about it. After all, this isn’t an act of aggression; it’s an act of self-preservation.
If you want to build a productive co-parenting relationship, it’s going to require maturity and compromise on both sides. Checking in on what your ex is up to can feel addictively pleasurable, but we promise that it can only hurt your long-term happiness.
So, give your co-parent the benefit of the doubt, just as you would want them to do for you. If that means full-on disengagement, then so be it.