I have learned over the years that setting limits with my co-parent is essential to the well-being of myself and my children. However, sometimes it's super difficult to know the right thing to do. It can feel as if you're in uncharted waters where anything can happen. When it comes to creating boundaries, it's important to have a good game plan as you paddle through your co-parenting journey.
The Challenge of Setting Limits:
Setting limits is definitely not the most enjoyable part of co-parenting and it's totally understandable if you'd rather avoid it altogether. But, my friends, this is where the magic happens—where boundaries transform chaos into cohesiveness and calm. Establishing boundaries can sometimes seem like you're the "bad guy" especially when your co-parent has no rules or tries to be the "fun, cool" parent but sticking to your limits will pay off in the long-run and set you up for success.
Why Set Limits?
Picture this: You and your co-parent have different parenting styles, and navigating the delicate balance can be like trying to juggle flaming torches. This is where setting limits comes into play. It's not about winning or losing; it's about creating a framework that ensures your child's well-being while maintaining your sanity. I consider setting limits self-care and it sets the stage for years to come.
Communication is Key:
Let's be real—communication can be a big challenge when it comes to co-parenting. However, it's the cornerstone of setting limits effectively. Try to keep the conversation open, honest, and respectful. Discuss your expectations, concerns, and goals to ensure you're on the same page. That being said, don't over-share, over-explain or defend yourself until your blue in the face. Keep it as brief as possible and don't engage in an unproductive dance with your co-parent. Say what you have to say and then hold firm. If you can't keep the conversation totally open, try Peaceful Co-Parenting Messenger to continue getting co-parenting business done but minimize the back-and-forth.
Consistency is Queen:
Just like many things in life, consistency is also key in co-parenting. Establishing and sticking to agreed-upon limits creates a stable environment for your child. It helps them understand what to expect, reducing confusion and potential stress. It also helps your co-parent know that you're not going to bend on your boundaries and limits. It'll prevent future back-and-forth discussion in the future. Even if your co-parent doesn't agree to the boundaries you set (which is not uncommon) that's okay. Reflect on why you're setting these limits and boundaries and as long as your reasoning is true to your ultimate goal: the absolute best thing for your children and yourself - stick to the plan.
What About Flexibility?
Is there room for flexibility when setting limits? Do you have to be as rigid as a board with your co-parent? After all, life is unpredictable, and being open to adjustments can sometimes be okay, right? Flexibility allows you to adapt to changing circumstances without compromising the overall structure you've established. However, some people see flexibility as an open door to walk all over you. When it comes to flexibility, consider your co-parent who is a unique individual with their own perspective and attitude. If mental illness is suspected, rarely being flexible may be the best option for your situation. Try being flexible a time or two and see how your co-parent reacts. If it creates a better relationship between the two of you that's great! If being flexible somehow seems to lead to more stress and anxiety for everyone, you may need to become as firm as a brick wall.
Pick Your Battles:
Not every hill is worth dying on, right? Be selective about the limits you set. Focus on the big picture and prioritize issues that truly matter for your child's well-being. Don't get caught up in the little stuff like clothing, toys, etc. I remember when my boys were little I would get annoyed that their nice clothing always ended up at my co-parent's house and they'd return in the clothing and shoes that were falling apart. Or toys and electronics would end up in the co-parenting abyss never to be seen again. Although sometimes everything can seem like a big thing, try to remain true to your universal goals the let the little stuff go.
Setting limits with your co-parent is like giving your co-parenting journey a map so you can avoid the choppy water. It won't eliminate all the rough rapids altogether, but it sure can make the ride a whole lot smoother. Remember, it's a team effort if possible, and the end goal is to provide the best possible environment for your child to thrive.
As you embark on this co-parenting adventure, keep the lines of communication open if possible, be consistent, and, most importantly, pick your battles wisely. Your child will thank you for it, even if they don't realize it until they're all grown up.
Stay peaceful, folks! May your limits be strong, your communication be clear, and your co-parenting adventure be a smooth one.
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2021). "Co-Parenting Tips for Divorced Parents."
Psychology Today. (2021). "Successful Co-Parenting Communication."
Child Mind Institute. (2021). "Flexible Thinking: What You Need to Know."
The Gottman Institute. (2021). "Consistency is Key in Co-Parenting."
HelpGuide. (2021). "Co-Parenting Tips for Divorced Parents: Making Joint Custody Work after a Divorce."