Do you ever want to ask your co-parent about scheduling about an upcoming trip (yours or theirs) or what time bedtime is at their house? Ask them! It is perfectly normal to want to make sure you have a basic understanding of the rules in the other person’s home. It is perfectly reasonable to want to know if there is a birthday party coming up that could impact parenting time in either household. Rather than asking your child, ask the other parent. Your children don’t want to be put in the middle, even if the topic seems minor. Instead, try talking to your co-parent.
Co-parenting meetings are regularly scheduled appointments for both parents to connect and talk about whatever is going on in their child’s life. Here are a few topics that you might discuss at a co-parenting meeting:
- Scheduling. Are there any activities coming up that your co-parent might want to know about? Is there anything coming up that could impact your co-parent’s parenting time? Is there something coming up that could impact your own parenting time such as a work trip? Scheduling could include things like extra-curricular activities, performances, parent-teacher conferences, a child’s friend’s birthday party, etc.
- Big Decisions. Do you need to make a decision about something that is coming up in the next few months? This could include whether your child should attend public school or private school, undergo medical care or naturopathic care, or whether or not to get braces. These are just a few examples, but really this could be any big decision that you know is coming up.
- Rules. Is it important to you to have consistent bed times or dietary restrictions in your homes? Do both of you want to have the same curfew? Do you want to have the same rules regarding driving? Does one parent have a concern about actions or attitudes that are going on during their parenting time? Co-parenting meetings are a great opportunity to make sure you are both on the same page. In fact, your co-parent might even be able to help you address challenges that are going on during your parenting time.
- Anything Else? Is there anything else you are wondering about or what to discuss that is related to your child? If it is on your mind, chances are that your co-parent is concerned about it as well. Just talk about it.
Co-parenting meetings can be structured or they can be more informal. There are only a few rules to co-parenting meetings:
- Agenda. Each parent needs to send a proposed agenda of what they would like to discuss 24 hours prior to the meeting. The point of sharing agendas is to give someone time to process and consider whatever you want them to think about. You don’t want to feel put on the spot and your co-parent doesn’t want that either.
- Agree to Disagree. It is possible to disagree in a respectful manner. If there is something you disagree about and you cannot reach a resolution, take some time to think about it and schedule a follow up conversation. Each of you should spend time thinking about a resolution to the issue that is acceptable to you and that you think will also be acceptable to the other parent. Do not raise your voice, make personal attacks, or threaten to call your lawyer. If you need to, consider scheduling an appointment with a mediator or child specialist.
- Keep It About The Kids. Co-parenting meetings are not the time to talk about your relationship or what is going on in the other person’s life. If someone wants to volunteer information, that’s fine. But this is a time to discuss your kids and how they are doing.
So what’s next? If you aren’t comfortable discussing the idea of co-parenting meetings, try emailing them a link to this page and ask them what they think. Try scheduling three co-parenting meetings. It may seem awkward at first, but if it does, just know it probably feels awkward for both of you! Just remember that you are doing this for your child and so that you can have a more effective co-parenting relationship in the future. If you don’t know what to talk about, consider using numbers 1-4 above as a template agenda.
Here are a few things to consider when you schedule your co-parenting meetings: Do you want to have them around a parenting time transition so that your kids can see you interacting respectfully? Do you want to avoid having these meetings around the kids so they aren’t waiting on you? Do you want to schedule a phone meeting after kids have gone to bed? How long do you want these meetings to last? There are no “right” answers to these questions. Try scheduling a meeting and seeing how it goes. You can always make changes to future meetings. Remember, this isn’t about the two of you – this is about your kids!