You will always be a 100% parent. But, now that you’re sharing your kids on a residential schedule, you’re “on duty” and in charge of the kids when they are home with you, and your co-parent is “on duty” and in charge of the kids when they are home with him/her. But, what about the soccer field or third-grade open house?
When co-parents share clear agreements about how to honor their residential schedule and “duty parent” designation in public spaces, such as extracurricular activities, sporting events, school gatherings, or birthday parties when both parents attend, co-parents and children move out of uncertainty and into respectful boundaries. Everyone — especially kids — can relax and enjoy.
Here are examples of Co-Parent Protocols that work:
- Cordially greet one another. And then, respect one another by keeping a comfortable distance, unless your relationship supports closer proximity and engaged conversation.
- Focus on your child participating in the activity – not your co-parent and his/her guests.
- If you are the duty parent, encourage siblings to go over and welcome, spend a few minutes with their other parent, exchange cuddles and return to sit with you. If you and your co-parent have an understanding that kiddos can move back and forth comfortably between you, that’s wonderful. It’s all about agreements – not assumptions.
- If the children ask to go to the snack shack, or to go play on the swings, the non-duty parent refers the children back to the duty parent for permission, respecting the authority of your co-parent’s residential time.
- At the end of the activity, the duty parent provides a few minutes for the child who was participating to greet the other parent, and exchange a few highlights, a big high-five, and then the non-duty parents guides the kiddo back into the duty-parent’s charge to load up the car and move on.
- Explain to your student athlete or band member, that he/she’s in perfect position to sit with the duty parent at banquets – again, supporting him/her to welcome, hug, and appreciate the non-duty parent for attending … and spend a few minutes visiting.
- Consider how you can share the time of an open-house or science exhibit with your co-parent, whether you are able to be together with your child, or you patiently wait in the cafeteria while your kiddo has special time with his/her other parent during the event. Plan, coordinate, help your child have both of you engaged in what’s important.
School and extracurricular activities serve as a “bridge” for your children between their homes. Help your kids negotiate that walk with clear permission to enjoy both parents while respecting who’s on duty. In doing so, you free your children from guessing and stressing about parents’ feelings, and from any uncertainty about how to navigate having you both attending their events after separation/divorce. And most importantly, your children don’t miss out on having both of you there to witness, celebrate, and support their accomplishments!