Going from a relationship where each parent does certain tasks to shared parenting post breakup can cause so much chaos on knowing who is to do what in regards to the kids!
You may have arranged all the doctors’ appointments for the kids, ordered all of their school supplies and organised their extra-curricular activities. Your ex may have taken them to soccer training on a Wednesday night, made online payments for school excursions, and taken them to dental appointments.
So, what happens now that you are not living in the one household in a routine with allocated tasks that you have always done…. who is supposed to do what?
A lot of conflict can start when one parent feels that they have always done a certain task and should continue whilst the other parent feels that they should do some of those tasks they didn’t do before because it is supposed to be shared parenting. This is when the power struggle takes place between both parents, whilst the kids watch on seeing their parents fight, wondering why the parent that usually does it just doesn’t continue.
For a smooth transition into a successful coparenting relationship, it makes sense to keep some tasks assigned as is. If you arranged all the doctors’ appointments for the kids, ordered all of their school supplies and organised their extra-curricular activities then it makes sense that this can continue as is to keep everything flowing smoothly as it was before. If your ex took them to soccer training on a Wednesday night, made online payments for school excursions, and took them to dental appointments, then this can continue as is to provide stability and minimise change for the children.
Separation is a major change for the family and highly emotional as the grief takes hold with the sense of loss of the family home, relationship, financial stability, mutual friends, and time with the kids. This major change can do without a power struggle over tasks that are best kept with the one who knows what to do, when to do them and how to do them.
So how will it work?
It requires healthy communication and a willingness to put the kids needs first rather than thinking “I’m not helping my ex; they can work it out for themself” or “I want to do that task now instead of the other parent”
Parents may decide together that they prefer that they each parent on their shared parenting time will arrange doctors’ appointments, enrol in extra-curricular activities, or take the kids to soccer training on a Wednesday night. There are some tasks though that can ONLY have one person do the task without a tug of war on who will do it and end up both doing it causing escalating conflict. Let’s take the ordering of school supplies as an example;
Parent A may have always ordered and paid for the schools supplies so goes ahead and does it requesting half the cost be reimbursed from the other parent.
Parent B may take two different courses of action;
Accepts that Parent A has always done it and just pays half of the cost once notified the order has been placed or
Argues that they both need to decide who will do it now, review list and decide how it will be ordered and how it will be paid for. Parent A says they have always done it so they will make the order. Parent B feels they are being controlled and being told how it will be becoming defensive. They go ahead and order the supplies themselves too but not to the exact specification of school recommendations.
Outcome: If Parent B takes the second course of action, Parent A will be requesting half payment of their order advising Parent B they got the wrong supplies. Parent B tries to get a refund for their order and argues about paying for half of Parent A’s order.
The coparenting relationship is not healthy and could continue in a power struggle instead of united parenting putting the children’s needs above their emotions regarding their ex. This coparenting conflict may continue in every decision to be made in their shared parental responsibility and escalate resulting in going to court. The judge may conclude that the parents cannot coparent successfully and assign sole parental responsibility to one parent to be the decision maker regarding the children to minimise the conflict endured by the children.
It is important to work out together at the onset of separation what tasks will be done by each parent via a co-parenting plan which will set the ground rules for ongoing shared parenting. The key is to think about how your children will see you in the shared parenting, as good role models seeking solutions with healthy communication or constantly fighting to gain control over each other.
Healthy coparenting helps you as parents heal and recover from the breakup and be good role models for your children. Conversely, constant coparenting conflict keeps you in a state of bitterness, resentment and anger causing you both to be uncooperative and act irrationally.
Your children need stability, security and a stress-free home life to be able to thrive in two loving homes. As parents you have an obligation and responsibility to provide that.
Author – Cheryl Duffy, Divorce Coach, Mediator & Author