1) Communicate clearly before creating the baby
Communicate clearly with your potential co-parent about your expectations. Get to know your co-parent over a period of time to develop trust and hopefully friendship. It's important to treat your co-parenting relationship like a business partnership. Set boundaries and communicate in the same way you communicate with your colleagues. Always treat your co-parent with respect, be polite, clear and child-centered.
2) Create a co-parenting legal agreement
You may think that it is not necessary to prepare a legal agreement if you are co-parenting but those who do, tend to find that it helps prevent future disputes and in the unfortunate event of their being one, it will make the court's decision easier if an agreement is in place.
3) Write a letter of intent
A letter of intent is a really good way of putting all your views on paper regarding important issues such as: contact arrangements, special celebrations such as Christmas, finances and other expenses such as saving for University, involvement of Grandparents, Religious views, Dietary views, Holidays abroad, medical treatment and so on ... A letter of intent is not legally binding but it does help communication and clarify intention and can be used as part of the co-parenting agreement.
3) Make sure it's about the kids and keep communication concise
Adopt a method of communication that enables you to remain clear, consistent and child-focused. There is no reason for you to discuss your needs or your co-parents needs with each other. Communication should always be about your children, their needs and what is in their best interest.
4) Don't use your children as messengers
Don't use your child as a messenger. Always communicate directly with your co-parent. It's unfair to put children in this position and they may feel like they have to take sides. It's also highly likely that the children will forget the message or get some of the information mixed up. You are expecting way too much of your children if you ask them to communicate on your behalf. Choose the best way of communicating with each other and stick to it, either by telephone, txt or emails – keep the children out of it.
5) Make the commitment to your kids and communicate regularly
During this difficult time, kids really need to know that you are both actively involved in their lives. They need to feel that you are both interested in what's going on with them. Find a way to communicate on a regular basis. This shows your children that you are both committed to their happiness and are willing to work together for their sake. It also helps to reduce the chances of your children being left somewhere due to a miscommunication about pick up or drop off. It can help to use communication channels where you don't actually have to speak to each other, such as by text. This will help to keep your emotions out of it and give you the chance to really think about what you are saying before you hit send.
6) Stay on topic
Clear communication between co-parents means it's much less likely that information gets lost or misunderstood. In turn this means less conflict. It helps to stay on topic and keep the communication brief and to-the-point. Don't wait and bundle up all your requests, concerns and news in one long message. Conversely, don't send lots of messages a day with each and every thing that comes to mind. Commit to communicating a few times a week.
7) Share info with your co-parent
Let your co-parent know about your child's achievements and interests, this will not only help your child feel special but also help your co-parent keep up to date. Pass on copies of school reports and achievements to your co-parent. Also any information which may be significant to your child's wellbeing such as medication, allergies or anything else which is important for your child's health and wellbeing.
8) Be polite and civil
When communicating with your co-parent, it's important to always be civil. Communicate as you would with a colleague. Communicate in the same way you'd like your co-parent to communicate with you. Use civilities such as ‘please' and ‘thank you'. Make requests, not demands. By treating your co-parent with respect and by approaching matters in a cooperative way, you are showing your children that they come first. Be fair in the amount of time you give your co-parent to get back to you. Keep things professional. Your commitment to your children as co-parents is for a long time. Find a way to not react when your co-parent antagonizes you. Don't write all in capitals – it's like shouting. Don't swear. Don't be rude or make derisory comments about your co-parent. Keep your emotions out of it and when things do go wrong, work together to resolve the issue rather than blaming the other parent. And when you are at fault, apologize. Often when you treat your co-parent respectfully, they will treat you the same way.
9) Make sure you're listening
Often we hear what we want to hear or what we expect to hear. Make sure you are listening to what your co-parent is saying. Take the time to try and understand their point of view. Even if you end up disagreeing, you will be able to clearly state what it is that you object to and your co-parent will feel heard. Listening is key to successful communication.
10) Always look for the compromise
In any parenting relationship, there are situations when parents disagree. Find a way to communicate that enables you to work together to find a mutually agreeable resolution. If you cooperate with each other, you will be able to find a solution that you are both happy with. It's also helpful to be as flexible as possible. If your co-parent's birthday is during your parenting time and they want to celebrate with the children, be kind and say yes. Don't make your kids miss out on a special occasion or having fun with the other parent out of spite. Children end up being the biggest losers in this scenario. Also, when you make a request next time, your co-parent is much more likely to say yes.
Remember to put your children first and always act in their best interests. This way you are much more likely to succeed. You will build a strong co-parenting relationship and your children get to openly love and spend time with both parents without having to choose sides.