Managing your own expectations within a relationship is difficult enough. It’s a whole new ball game when it comes to co-parenting.
Expectations are the ‘strong belief that something will or should happen’.
We all have expectations. Some are met, some are not but when our expectations are strong and the world around us is falling apart, it can be really difficult to accept that the expectations we have of how our children are raised may be different to that of our ex. It is important as co-parents to come to some kind of understanding of what the non-negotiable or agreed upon expectations for our children.
It is also important that we decide what we will let slide outside our home.
When you separate, the inability to referee or have a say about what goes on while your kids are at the other parent’s home can be really hard to let go of.
You prefer organic fresh produce and quinua salads for dinner and when the kids go to the other parent they seem to be loaded up with junk.
You don’t like tv/screen time – that’s all they seem to do at the other parent’s home.
Two very common complaints! Maybe its not as black and white as those examples within your situation but it can really feel like what the children are exposed to at one parents house is the extreme opposite to what happens in the other, and this can create quite a bit of stress. If you let it.
Yes, that’s right. If you let it!
The reality is, you don’t live together anymore. Therefore, your ability to referee, influence, have a say or alter what goes on when the children are in their care is limited.
Ask yourself these 3 Questions when considering your expectations.
1. Are the kids safe when they are in the other parent’s care?
Your role as a parent is first and foremost to keep your kids safe. Protect them from harm. Is the concern you have about your ex’s parenting directly impacting your child’s safety?
If safety is a concern, this really does need to be addressed as soon as possible. If the children are exposed to any harmful behaviours, violence, neglect or emotional or physical abuse then you would be wise to speak to someone about how to manage this.
If you know they are safe in the other parent’s care, move onto the next question.
2. What happens majority of the time?
What we do most of the time is what matters. So, if at your home your children following the expectations of how you believe they should be raised: ie: eating healthy, limits on screen-time, emphasis on school work etc, you can rest assured they are getting a balanced perspective and an opportunity to learn from both of their parents.
Did you say ‘yes but..’? Refer to question 1!
3. What do I really have control over?
The ideal way to manage your expectations as co-parents, is to sit down and share them and make an agreement. Even if that went really smoothly, there will be times in the parenting journey where you or your ex may appear to agree yet do what you/they want anyway. Or, they will flat out disagree with you – or you them – and refuse. Sometimes, you will agree on an issue but it may not be as important to one of you as it is to the other, so it gets ‘forgotten’ in their home. What you really have control over, is your own reactions, your own responses and the boundaries you set in your own home.
Meeting the expectations of the other parent can be really difficult if you do not agree with their expectations. No matter who you are, how long you have been separated or how often you have come to an agreement about something, life is a series of unmet expectations! For you own sanity, decide what your non-negotiables are and consider everything else a request. If the issue is important to you but not to the point of creating tension, consider informing your ex, and letting it go, knowing you are doing your best within in your own circle of control.
Then scream into a pillow 😉