Years ago, I wrote a post about how to save money using your parenting coordinator. This post and the next expand on the thought that parents can and should do more on their own regarding co-parenting, and that parents can effectively be their own parenting coordinator (the ultimate way to save money!).
Parenting coordinators help resolve parenting issues that either aren’t covered by your parenting plan, or that fall in a gray area of your Plan, so that the two parents just plain disagree about something. Some of these suggestions in this post and the next one coming up are the same things a parenting coordinator would do (or help the parent do), but ALL of these strategies for resolving things with the other parent can be done without a PC.
Doing this work on one’s own isn’t easy. It takes patience, compromise, and a big dose of self-awareness and self-examination.
Post One: Suggestions #1-5
1. First and foremost: pick your battles. Just as you do with your children, decide if an issue is something to fight about with the other parent. Sit down and define what you think the problem is, in writing, and write down what solutions you would like to see. Are these reasonable? Are they possible? If you and your ex negotiated a parenting time plan over months of time and finally came up with something that works, and your current conflict is whether children should be allowed to stay home alone during certain times, then is it likely that your ex is going to agree to change parenting time to give you the children more? No, it’s not likely. If the issue is whether your ex can take the children two hours early on a certain day for a special family event/ birthday/ wedding, is it reasonable to say no, just because it’s “your” time? Probably not. Why would you fight that battle? If the answer is “To make a point” ; “Because it’s MY time”, “Because s/he wouldn’t do it for me”, or “To teach him/ her a lesson”, those are pretty good indicators that the action you’re thinking of is not best for your kids.
2. This is an extension of #1: Determine if your position is logical and reasonable. If your position is that the other parent should do 100% of the driving for the children most of the time, is that logical? Is it reasonable to think that a PC and later a judge will have one parent do 100% of the driving? Is it logical that the judge will give one parent every Christmas Day with the children and deprive the other parent of ever having a Christmas Day?
3. Can this dispute be resolved with a fairly small amount of money? It doesn’t really matter if you bought the last pair of shoes. If the kid’s shoes are missing, and both parents deny the shoes are at their home, it’s healthier for you to go to Target and buy another pair of shoes (and buy ugly ones, so the child has incentive to keep track of the better-looking ones next time). Consider your stress and blood pressure, and put things into perspective: even children in intact families, with both parents under the same roof, lose shoes, lunchboxes, homework, hoodies, books, and other things. Lost items aren’t always caused by two households.
4. Designate someone to talk to about the disputes you’re going through. Don’t choose a friend or family member who will agree with you on everything. Choose someone whose opinion you really trust and who you would consult with about an important decision like changing neighborhoods or jobs. Choose someone who has tried to stay neutral between you and the other parent (no matter how mad that makes you). Bounce your ideas off of that person (is this a battle I should continue? is my position logical and reasonable?) and ask for real, truthful feedback. This person can be an attorney or counselor, but you’ll be paying for that feedback, and there may be cheaper alternatives. Look for a parenting or post-divorce group that meets regularly, maybe even online, to exchange ideas like this.
5. Have you communicated in a straightforward way with the other parent about this issue? If you’re thinking you have to have court intervention to try and change your child’s school, have you provided the other parent with all your reasons for the proposed change, including your concerns and how the different school would be better for the child? (If your reason for wanting to change schools is your convenience, because the new school is closer to you, this isn’t likely to be acceptable to the other parent OR to the court.) If your child is struggling in a current school or activity and after lots of research, you feel a specific change is best for the child, spell this all out in a reasonable email to the other parent. The worst s/he can say is “No”. When you send your concerns with new information, keep it as brief and businesslike as possible, without phrases like “I know you’ll just say no” or “The last time we talked about this you were such an ass . . . .”
See the next post (2 days off) for suggestions #6-10 on being your own parenting coordinator.