Sometimes I forget how wild of an idea it is to co-parent and get along with your child’s other parents. Or to even try!
Just this morning all 6 of us (Mommy, Daddy, Mama K, Jamesy, K, and K2) went out to breakfast at a local café. The waitress was so nice and friendly, we were bonding over how far apart in age our children are. Inevitably, it came up that I was Mom and Kristen (sitting next to me at the time) was Stepmom. This sweet lady had to ask us multiple times to repeat what we said. “Wait, you two get along??” Shock. Disbelief. It made us laugh.
While we love surprising people with our friendly relationship, our goal is to make this happy co-parenting thing a reality for many more families. And one of the fun ways that helped us get to know each other better (which is a fair part of getting along) was going on co-parenting dates!
I realize that many families are absolutely not to the point where they want to be anything close to “friends,” but for those that have made it to the point of at least being polite, co-parenting dates are a great way to become more comfortable around each other. But more importantly, it’s wonderful for your kids to see you getting along as one big family.
4 Steps to a Great Co-parenting Date
Step 1. Who’s invited?
To first plan a co-parenting date, decide who all you want to include. Some families choose to only include Mom, Dad, and child. Others like to include the whole family, no matter how big! We’ve done both over the years. Before I got to know Kristen – K, her dad, and I got together for a few dinners out to spend time with K, together. Once Kristen and I started warming up to each other, we started planning whole family outings! Many times, Kristen and I take the girls out just with just the two of us. You’ll know what’s right for your family.
Step 2. Where will you meet?
I’d suggest your families start out by meeting on common ground for your first co-parenting date. There are a ton of places you could try out – everywhere from restaurants to play places, from outdoors activities to meeting up for holiday outings. Here are a few ideas to get you started! (Some suggestions are for more experienced friendly co-parents!)
Fun Places to Go
Peek n Play, or another pretend-play place
Carnival or Circus
Roller Skate Rink
Traditional Restaurant Outings
Indoor Rock Climbing
Zoo, or Petting Zoo
Open Play at a Gymnastics Gym
Bounce House Play Place
Local Children’s Museum
Peruse the Book Store
See a Play or Ballet
Go see a Movie
Run a 5K Together
Go Ice Skating
Shoot Fireworks on the 4th of July
Trick-or-Treat together on Halloween
Hike Along Lake or Mountain Trails
Sit Together for Games, Recitals, or Tournaments
Visit a Local Farm (Fruit Picking!)
Go to the Beach
Swim at the Community Pool
Have a Picnic
Ice Cream at the Park
Different Kinds of Activities
(These I would suggest for more comfortable & friendly families.)
Run Errands Together
Movie Night at someone’s house
Mani-Pedis with the girls
#3. Behave yourself.
Things may start out awkward in the beginning, and that’s totally normal. As you guys start figuring out these new relationships and your new dynamic, you’ll feel more comfortable around each other. And even if you don’t, you should still behave yourself. This is your family, for better or for worse.
Be polite. Be kind. And treat others the way you would like to be treated. C’mon you guys – we’re all adults here! Make sure you act like one.
#4. Payment and Courtesy.
It’s usually considered common courtesy for the one who invited everyone out to expect to pay, but it’s also nice to take turns. Many times there may be one side of the family planning all the outings. Don’t expect them to always foot the bill! It doesn’t matter about child support, or owing anybody anything. It’s the nice thing to do.
Co-parenting dates can be a fun way to get to know each other and help improve relationships. But more than that, it’s a fantastic way to show your child that you can get along for his or her sake. You probably won’t become best friends of course, but at the very least it’ll help you get on the same page. Put your best (and most respectful) foot forward, and you’ll make strides on the co-parenting path.
Who knows – maybe one day you’ll even plan a joint birthday party together!
PS: If you reached this point, maybe it’s time to throw your first joint birthday party! Here’s how we did it!