While no parent typically sets out to parent their child apart from the other parent, it does happen a lot in society now. More parents are splitting up, divorce rates are rising, and the number of unwed pregnancies is ever increasing. Enter the problem of how to work out extra-curricular activities when the parents are no longer together. While some families start out being together there are others that broke up before the child was born, or not long after the birth of the child. How do you deal successfully with the other parent when you disagree over activities? I will give some practical solutions on how to work out a great agreement that will help your child thrive.
Tip #1. Never force the other parent to participate. Just as you should never force your child to participate, you shouldn’t force the other parent either. If a person is unhappy about being forced into participating it will show in their demeanor. Your child may mistakeningly think the other parent is upset with them, not you. This can cause great misunderstands and drive a wedge between the other parent and your child. This is never a desirable option, no matter how upset you are with the other parent.
Tip #2. Never schedule an activity on the other parents’ time without their permission. You would not be happy if they did this to you, so surely you cannot expect them to be happy if you do it to them. My husbands ex happily signed their son up for swim classes thinking it would be a way to control my husband’s time with his son. Instead every other weekend my step-son would miss swim class but would have a great time in our pool spending time with our family, playing and enjoying himself rather than going to the classes his mother arranged. Situations like this occur all of the time, and it is unfair to the child.
Tip #3. Do not expect the other parent to pay for an activity they do not approve of. With this in mind, if the other parent thinks football is an inappropriate sport, do not expect them to be excited about you signing the child up. Do not expect them to pay for the equipment or other fees either. That should be a burden you bear on your own, as well as the responsibility to handle all transportation for the events whether it is practice or a game. Same for the other parent, if you disapprove of an activity make that clear, but say that you will not stop them from signing up the child as long as they understand they are responsible for all equipment that must be purchased, all fees that must be paid, and all transportation that is necessary for practice, games and so forth.
Tip #4. Never use an activity to cause a scene. Do not decide to harass the other parent over a missed child support payment at their ball game. Do not cause a scene about the other parent denying visitation at the child’s recital. There are appropriate places and times for these conversations, and your child’s activity is never the place, EVER! These conversations should be held in private, away from your child and as calmly as possible.
Tip #5. Accept that the other parent will move on, and that new person has a right to attend the events. While this does not mean that mom can bring her new boy toy of the week, and dad can bring his newest fling, this does mean that if either parent is in a serious relationship, or they are engaged or married their new partner should be free to attend the events as well without interference. Coming to the child’s activities are a great way for the new party to gain the child’s trust without rushing things. You should take this time to meet the newcomer so that you know who is around your child. There is a right way and a wrong way to handle this. You should be friendly, but you are not trying to make a new best friend. However, if you remain open with the other parent’s new partner your child will feel much less stress about everyone, whether you are at a game, or a recital.
Tip #6. Notify the other parent about practice meets, games, and recitals. Always make sure they know when events are occurring. They have a right to be there, and support their child. While you may not like the other parent much, it is a self-less act to make your child happy with having both parents there. It is a great way to show support. Remember never force the other parent to participate, but at the same time, as much advance notice as possible is appropriate so they can plan their life as well. You would want the same courtesies in exchange.
As we, all know parenting from two separate households is never easy. Especially when a child is involved in extra-curricular activities, but with some effort and patience even the most difficult situation can be peaceful and loving around the child. Keep your focus on what is best for them, and everything else will fall into place.