We’ve talked about divorce, but what about co-parenting?
Destini Davis, a proponent of peaceful parenting in her fantastic Instagram and TikTok accounts, has worked hard to develop compassionate co-parenting relationships with her daughters’ fathers. She realized that fostering greater kindness for her exes (and herself, too!) helps everything run more effectively and peacefully.
Destini is the first to admit that these methods don’t come naturally to her. “I am often irritable, easily vexed, and extra AF, but I work to be those things at times and in ways that don’t impose on my children,” she writes. “And in doing so, I naturally become a little less of those things each day.”
Here are her seven co-parenting realizations…
Consider ‘Couples’ Therapy
Couples therapy? With your ex? It may sound like a truly hellish idea, but when kids are involved, Destini says it can be vital: “You have to heal wounds and reestablish a foundation of respect, kindness and empathy before you can effectively care for the small person.” And sometimes having a professional in the room to guide those conversations is the best way to get you and your co-parent back on solid footing.
Let Go (as Much as Possible)
Letting go of the reins when your child is with the other parent can feel difficult and crazy-making. But as long as you know that your child is being loved and having their needs met, Destini says it is best to breathe and let smaller stuff go. “I can’t change anyone’s heart by getting controlling about what time my daughter should eat or what she can’t do when I’m not with her,” Destini says. “All that does is negatively impact my own peace of mind.”
Follow the 24-Hour Rule
When something frustrates you about your ex’s parenting style — their approach towards discipline, say, or the amount of TV your kids watch in their care — Destini suggests waiting a full 24 hours before broaching the subject. “I am a naturally confrontational person, so it feels uncomfortable to sit on things,” she says. “But many things that feel like a big deal in the moment don’t feel that way a day later. This waiting period gives me a chance to decide if the issue is something I genuinely care about. If it is, the time to breathe lets me bring it up in a kinder way.”
After Drop-Off, Reconnect First
Transitions are hard for anyone but can be particularly dysregulating for children. After coming home from spending time with her dad, Destini’s older daughter would “bump heads [with Destini] for a solid 48 hours.” Her dad had a different parenting style, and it would be hard to switch gears after time away. Then, Destini realized they could always reconnect first, before returning to real life. “When my kids get home, we take it easy,” says Destini. “Bedtime is loose; if they decide to stay up and watch movies with me, that’s fine. The next morning, we go over our list of non-negotiable rules and start our week. Those moments of reconnecting make a huge difference.” Pro tip: Dance parties work, too.
Have the ‘Sit Down’
You may feel like you know what’s best for your kid, while your ex does not. But! “If you want to set boundaries or make changes, you have to address things together,” says Destini. A sit down lets you get everything on the table in a direct yet empathetic way. Destini suggests saying something along these lines: “I don’t like how things are going. I know I contributed to the problem, and I want to commit to doing better. Here are some changes I want to make, and I am open to hearing your ideas, too.”
Talk with your ex about what methods of communication (a text, a phone call, an in-person conversation) work best for which situations. And when you do communicate, put empathy first. “Any time I open up, I make sure to not talk to him like a child,” Destini says. “When I come at him with blame, he hears, ‘You’re not a good dad, you don’t care,’ and is more likely to shut down. But I am much more interested in figuring out how we can work together.”
Focus on the Positive
After a divorce or breakup, it can be hard to find anything you appreciate about your ex. But Destini says it is a detriment to let your relationship struggles seep into your communication with your kids. “Kids can feel your energy, so I make sure the story I tell my daughter about her dad is positive,” Destini said. “He is a natural teacher — he taught her to tie her shoes and ride a bike. They have so much in common and have lots of fun together. Even when I’m angry with him, I’m grateful she has that.”
Thoughts? What would you add about co-parenting? We’d love to hear…