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Being a parent is not easy, but successfully parenting alongside an ex-spouse can be especially difficult at first. With a recent shift toward more shared custody situations, many Missouri parents are struggling to find the right balance. However, successful co-parenting is completely possible.

As with all things involving child custody after a divorce, co-parenting’s main focus should be the kids. You and your ex probably agree on this point, but determining exactly what their best interests are can be somewhat trickier.

Have clear expectations

Kids tend to thrive when they understand the rules, their boundaries and expectations of them. While you do not have to run the exact same household rules, you should consider working with your ex-spouse to set up similar expectations for your child. This might include finishing homework before playing video games or calling to check in with the other parent at regular times.

However, this means that you will need to keep an open dialogue with your ex. While most people do not get divorced with the intention of maintaining regular and ongoing contact, it is a necessary part of successful co-parenting. If you struggle with in-person conversations, consider using text messaging or emails until you can move on to face-to-face talks.

Be firm, but flexible

Can you imagine not knowing what your work schedule will look like over the next few days, with little to no notice about shift changes? Give yourself, your child and your ex the courtesy of establishing a pre-determined schedule and sticking to it. Not only does it make it easier for everyone involved, but it also lets your child know that you will always be there exactly when you say you will.

That said, you know that life is unpredictable. Loved ones pass away and plans change unexpectedly, so you and your ex are willing to be flexible on important matters. If you are worried about not being able to handle things in a civil manner, you can include language addressing these types of matters in your custody agreement.

Remember, it’s about the kids

Ending a marriage is an incredibly emotional process, and losing sight of other things is not uncommon during a divorce. However, as a parent, you need to corral that focus and remember what is at stake — your children’s well-being.

In most cases, children in Missouri need regular and open access to both of their parents. By establishing healthy co-parenting habits, you can help your child maintain meaningful relationships with both you and your ex.