It is not uncommon to have expectations for everyone in our life. You expect people to treat you with respect. You expect your children to behave and to do their chores. You may expect your former partner to either leave you alone or abide by all your requests. However, if you set your expectations too high, you are going to be disappointed and angry. Managing your expectations is crucial to keeping your parenting partnership, yourself and your children free from unnecessary conflict.
Following these practical tips will improve your ability to manage expectations and create a realistic co-parenting partnership.
Make No Assumptions
Divorced parents often get into trouble when they assume the other parent knows what they are expecting or what they are talking about. Don’t get caught in assuming the other parent has the same understanding of a situation or child-rearing decision as you do. Openly discuss what is expected, how it may be achieved, and how success will be determined. Allow opportunities for questions and clarification. This is also a good time to determine who is responsible for taking what action. Agree and commit to the decision.
Make Sure Expectations are Realistic and Reasonable
Being open about what you are able to accomplish can go along way in instilling confidence in the co-parenting relationship. Realistic expectations are a way for us to have a sense of control over our environment. Recognizing inherent limitations can be helpful. Be logical and use sound judgment. Adopt an awareness of things as they really are and accept reality. Determine what is real and practical.
Stop expecting your former partner to read your mind. Communicate precisely what you believe the children need and why before you get irritated and angry. Cut the emotional response off and simply state your thoughts and opinions.
Do not demand that your co-parent change to meet all your expectations. Work to accept the differences between your picture of the “model” co-parent and what is sensible. It is unreasonable for you to believe that you can control the other parent’s thoughts and behavior. When critical differences do happen, try to work hard to negotiate in good faith.
Negotiate and Compromise
Be willing to negotiate and compromise on the things you want for your child. Stop expecting your co-parent to agree with you. You will set yourself up for disappointment and negatively influence the parenting partnership. If this were to occur, your children’s needs may not be met.
See Things from Your Co-Parent’s Perspective
Understand and respect each other’s differences, points of view and separate needs. Accept that you will not agree with one another all the time.
Abide by the Golden Rule
“Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31. It’s a phrase you may have used with your children, but not always followed yourself. If you expect your partner to treat you with respect and consideration, then you must do the same for them. Show your co-parent the thoughtfulness and humanity that you would want as well.
Give Changes a Chance to Work
One way you can manage expectations is to make sure you allow your co-parenting relationship room to grow. Understand that changes are not going to occur overnight, and that patience may also need to be involved. Don’t give up on the change too quickly but also realize that there may be a need to reevaluate the change if needed.
Managing your co-parenting expectations will help you build a collaborative parenting partnership. It also frees you to live a better life minus the frustration and distress associated with unmet expectations. You co-parenting relationship won’t always go as planned, but if you learn how to manage your expectations, you can build the foundation necessary for your children to get the most out of your parenting partnership. Your children will be the beneficiaries of your good will.
Ann Marie Termini, Ed.S., M.S., LPC