Kathleen and her ex are committed to co-parenting together and I think one of the challenges of co-parenting is how you deal with your ex’s rules when they’re different from yours. Should you try to get him to change and follow your rules or should you work at getting your child to accept there are just going to be different rules? Kathleen and her ex are finding they still encounter new challenges even after three years of separation. It’s those challenges that they bring to their psychologist – the same psychologist that helped them create their original parenting plan. Here’s what Kathleen told me:
We still see our psychologist once a month pretty much on a proactive basis. We’re mostly relaxed and friendly but we can still get triggered. If something seems like it’s going to be harder to talk about, we bring it here. For example, I wanted my ex to have a land line phone at his home and he wanted to use just his cell phone. I prefer that my daughter not talk on a cell phone – she’s not a big telephone talker anyway but I don’t think the safety of cell phones for developing brains has really been established. My ex and I finally worked out that I’d split the cost of a land line and I had an old phone. Even something like this can be hard for us to resolve.
Other topics we’ve talked about – bedtimes. She’s a real night owl, I’m a night owl and he’s not. So how do we get her enough sleep? We’re still working on that one. We’ve talked about media time like should we have rules about how much time she should have on the computer. She used to go online occasionally but then she got Webkinz and wanted to be on the computer lots.
We’ve talked about housework. Conventional wisdom would say different houses are like different cultures and you just respect that. He’d been asking her to do some housework stuff and she was saying, ‘I don’t have to do that at Mom’s.’ So we were thinking we would work on that together. Housework is not one of my strong points but I came up with an idea based on FlyLady . She has this habit of the month so I thought we could choose one task, like throw your laundry in the basket, and work on doing that for a month and then adding another task.
Another tension between us is food and feeding say artificial colors or eating junk foods. I tend to want to keep things as organic and healthy as possible and he’s more casual. I would like us to come up with some basic rules and we could share strategies to get her to eat fruits and vegetables. We’re still in conversation about this.
Seeing the psychologist helps because we can deal with disagreements as they come up. It works better not to wait until things have gotten out of hand and then see someone.
That’s the thing about being a parent – it’s constantly evolving and just when you think you’ve got the upper hand, it changes. I think Kathleen is fortunate that her ex agrees to meet jointly with the psychologist. It does at least give her an opportunity to decide whether or not a particular battle is worth fighting. Fortunately, my ex and I have been able to agree on the points that we both feel are important but what happens when you don’t agree or when you can’t have a civil discussion?
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