How to Co Parent Successfully with Someone with Fundamental Belief Differences
I talk a lot about having a community of women in your corner. I’ve learned how essential it is to have good people to back you up, build you up, and also keep you in check when you’re going off the deep in. When I talk to my girlfriends about how to co parent succesfully and relationships, I think these characteristics are even more important. Co-parenting isn’t easy, even when you have a positive relationship with your ex/spouse/children’s step-parents. It’s easy to become emotional when it comes to your children and their environment; that means it’s even more essential to have a team of people supporting you that can keep a clear head.
There has been so much tension caused by this Presidential election that families are even struggling to not be torn apart and divided by their core beliefs. While I’m lucky to not struggle with this personal co-parenting issue, a dear friend of mine has. She has spent the last 10 years co-parenting with someone who is her polar opposite and let me tell you, it hasn't always been easy. She was kind enough to let me share some of her tips to co parent succesfully with someone who has fundamental belief differences or values than you.
Here are her tips:
1. Teach your kids to think for themselves. || Remind yourself that your beliefs are just that. Yours. They do not have to belong to your child, your ex, or your spouse. While it makes it easier to partner with someone who has similar beliefs as we do, it’s impossible to expect that we will not grow, change or reevaluate things throughout the span of our lives. And while we can choose our partners, our children are born with their own thoughts and strengths. One of the most important skills we can teach our children is to think for themselves, and not to follow blindly. When a parent is so closed off that they tell their child what to think, instead of how to think for themselves, they don’t leave room for that child to find their own voice.
2. Show them who you are. || Talk to your children and be open about your experiences and beliefs. While it might be tempting to say ‘this is right, and this is wrong;’ resist the urge. Even if the person you co-parent with is teaching your child a rhetoric you don’t believe in. Your message of “I believe this because…” is more powerful than you might think. Remember that they are stronger and smarter than we realize. By having conversations instead of lectures, you are essentially coaching your child to think about things on a deeper level to form their own opinions. Ask your child what they think, and why they think that way. Let them feel safe in disagreeing with you in a healthy way.
3. Remind them that they are loved and safe. || Kids feel tension. In the midst of such a heated election, it’s hard to not carry the weight of it with us. However, despite these circumstances, children need to know that our differences as parents will not have an impact on their well-being. So you voted for Hilary, and he voted for Trump. You don’t see him the same way. He doesn’t seem to see the issue. Kids don’t understand these issues, but they feel the tension. This is the perfect time to remind them that they are safe and loved. You can send the message like this, “Honey, I know mommy and daddy don’t agree on some things. That’s okay. Daddy believes what he does based on his life experience, and mommy believes what she does because her experience was different. One day, when you are older you will make these kinds of choices based on your experiences as well. Right now, you don’t need to worry about who our president is, you just need to know that we both love you very much.”
4. Don’t be all talk. || Letting your children make their own choices about who they want to be, doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t see you standing by your beliefs and acting on them. It’s the opposite. Just because you don’t tell them how to think, doesn’t mean you can’t fiercely advocate for your beliefs through your actions. If you believe in helping others, don’t just vote that way. Get out there and actively help. Take your children with you and let them help too. Let them see and experience what it means to be less fortunate, or not afforded the same rights as other citizens. Expose them to the things you believe in. If you believe in God, take them to church and let them see you pray. Teach with your actions and let them gain enough life experience to see why you’ve chosen to believe what you do.
5. Encourage your co-parent to share this rhetoric. || We can’t change our co-parents views. They are individuals with their own opinions and experiences. Even when their views offend us; that is not a weight our children should have to carry. Approach the topic with your co-parent logically, and with putting emotion to the side. “I know that we have very different beliefs that we feel strongly about, and neither of us will change our minds on these beliefs. I don’t want to spend our entire lives fighting or making our child choose between us. I think that the most respectful and beneficial approach would be to allow our child to form their own opinions. We can and should share our beliefs with them, but we need to make sure we are respectful of each other while doing so and not putting pressure on our child to side with one or the other.”
This is such a hard topic, especially when we are so passionate about certain things. Remembering to keep our children at the center of our focus is most important right now, and allowing them to become strong, independent thinkers. Let’s build up our children, and encourage them to look around and seek out answers. Let’s prepare them for a world of people who think very differently than each other, and positive ways we can discuss differences and grow from them. Let’s remind them that even when we don’t agree with each other, tearing each other down isn’t the way to progress. Let’s set a fire in their souls, to learn, question, and advocate for their own beliefs.