How do I co-parent with someone who has a different parenting style?
It can take time to get used to co-parenting after divorce, especially if you and your ex had very different parenting roles during your marriage. Often, parents making this adjustment develop their own distinct ways of managing their responsibilities. When one’s parenting methods conflict with the other’s, it can lead to disputes. If you and your ex have different parenting approaches, you may be wondering: How do I co-parent with someone who has a different parenting style?
Parenting Style Differences
You and your ex are different people. Therefore, it stands to reason that you will have your own unique parenting styles. Depending on your perspective, some of your differences may be minor. By contrast, you may also take vastly different approaches to the same parenting tasks. Depending on your circumstances, these distinctions may or may not create co-parenting difficulties.
One way to get ahead of potential parenting style conflicts is by agreeing on certain foundational issues. By identifying and finding common ground, you may be able to avoid disagreements later on. Consider topics you have agreed upon in the past. If you know you are already on the same page, it may be that much easier to develop mutual agreements. For instance, when you were married, you both may have prioritized your children’s education, rest, and nutrition. You could agree that certain privileges be linked to their grades. Likewise, you could agree to enforce the same screen and bedtime limitations during the school week. Ideally, you and your ex can include these types of agreements in your parenting plan. When mutual terms are in writing, there is less room for misinterpretation.
Recognizing the Value of Consistency
As a divorced parent, it can be extremely frustrating to create rules and limitations in your home, only to have them disregarded when your kids are with your ex. In this situation, it could seem like you are being set up to be the "not fun" parent who has the unenviable job of enforcing the rules while your ex gets to be the “fun parent.”
It's important to remember that kids need consistency. When they know what to expect on a day-to-day basis, it can help minimize their anxiety. As a parent, when you establish and maintain defined rules and expectations, you are providing your kids with the structure and stability they need to feel secure.
It can be hard not to take it personally when your ex does the opposite of what you would do with your kids. However, it could be that your ex’s “fun parent” behavior is less about defying you and more about them being uncertain in their parenting role. For example, your ex taking the kids out after bedtime or giving them ice cream for breakfast may be about your ex getting instant reassurance that your kids are happy. Of course, it’s also possible your ex may be taking some parenting actions to irritate you. In either circumstance, these co-parenting conflicts can create tension between you.
You may or may not be able to discuss this type of parenting style contradiction with your ex. If your ex is reasonable, you may be able to help them understand the importance of consistency for your kids. However, there may be too many barriers to work through your differences. In this situation, it's important to recognize what you can and can't control and to take steps to ensure you are maintaining consistent parenting practices.
Evaluating Your Parenting Style Differences
Co-parenting can be difficult, especially when parents are still recovering from the pain of divorce. Consequently, your and your ex's parenting style differences may reflect some of your residual feelings about one another. It's important to evaluate your reasons for taking a different stance than your ex regarding your kids. Is your parenting dispute about what's best for your kids or about how you feel about your ex? Clarifying your feelings may help you manage the relationship in the future. Once you are clearer about how you feel, you can take an honest look at your parenting-style differences and the impact on your kids.
Parenting Coaches and Family Therapy
Developing a post-divorce parenting dynamic can be challenging, even when parties are amicable. If you and your ex are open to talking with a third party, it may be helpful to consult with a parenting coach or family therapist. By working with a trained professional, you and your ex may be able to develop cooperative co-parenting strategies that support your children's well-being.
Custody and Placement Modification
Sometimes co-parenting style differences can be more aggravating for parents than harmful to children. However, circumstances can arise when the distinctions are so great as to cause concern. For instance, suppose one parent allows the children to be around potentially unsafe conditions. In that circumstance, the other parent may need to take immediate action to modify legal custody and physical placement.
If you have concerns about the differences between you and your ex’s parenting styles, it would be best to review the matter with an experienced Wisconsin child custody attorney. You and your Wisconsin child custody lawyer can evaluate the issues and determine your options.
Contact a Wisconsin Child Custody Attorney
Wisconsin legal custody and placement orders can be complex. If you have a child custody or placement matter, you will want to work with an experienced Wisconsin child custody and placement attorney.
Wisconsin Attorney and Mediator Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law is an attorney and Mediator with the experience you need to assist you with your Wisconsin child custody and placement issues. If you have a child custody or divorce case in the Waukesha area, please contact us today and let us take a “first look” at your situation.