Co-parenting is incredibly important for your children’s wellbeing.  This means, whether your kids are with you most of the time, with their other parent most of the time, or split their time evenly between you, both of you need to be involved in the kids’ lives and in any decisions that are made about them.

Having one parent do all the real parenting, while the other one just takes the kids for fun outings, is not really co-parenting.  Buying your kids lots of things every time you see them is not strong parenting either and can put the children in the middle between you.  You may think that by doing really exciting things for your kids that they’ll like you better or want you more than their other parent, but it rarely works like that. 

In fact, it can actually cause your child more pain and confusion, because they may now feel that they’re obligated to show you extra love, or they may feel very protective of the other parent who perhaps can’t afford such gifts. 

Your children will love you both if you both simply love them, spend time with them, listen to them, laugh with them, and reassure them that you are there for them.  In other words, just be their mom or dad.  It’s not a competition and you can’t buy love. 

If your custody situation and schedule are such that you only see your children every other weekend, you can still have a wonderfully close relationship with them if you spend quality time with them.  What does that mean exactly?  It doesn’t mean you have to plan a lot of outings or special activities that cost money. 

Pay attention to what your child likes and talks about, and focus on those things.  If they love to draw, then spend time drawing with them.  If they love to be outside and explore, then go on some nature trails or walk around your neighborhood looking for certain leaves and flowers.  If they like baking, then try a new recipe and let them do most of the “work”.  If they’re into model airplanes, get a kit and make one together.  If they love music, ask to hear some of their favorite tunes.  If they’re not too old to be mortified, dance around with them.  Bottom line: show an interest in them and let them know you’re there for them.

Don’t decide that rules go out the window because you feel sorry for your kids or feel guilty about getting divorced.  This will not benefit them and will lead to more issues down the road.  The more consistent you can be, the better.  This lets them know that just because you’re not married anymore, everything hasn’t changed. 

The more your children feel like the two of you are on the same page, the better.  They will feel more secure and they will be less likely to try to play you off of each other.  If you are both involved in making decisions about the kids and the kids know that you are in agreement on the decisions, they will feel more connected to both of you and less confused about what’s going on and who’s in charge.

In other words, your children will still feel like they have two parents, and that will mean the world to them.  So put aside your differences and give your kids what they really want and need to grow and thrive – both of you.