With sleep comes more emotional stability, which is exactly what you need when handling sticky co-parenting situations. In the moment, emotions are hard to turn off and can push us into saying and doing things that we likely will regret or that can detrimentally affect our child. Co-parenting relationships as a whole stem from a prior bond and attachment, which lends itself to dealing with lots of complicated emotions, feelings, and egos. Learning to put all of that to the side and look at the bigger picture is a process. One really handy tool is using the ‘Sleep On It’ method. This method is tried and true and ultimately one of the easiest things a parent can do to help grow their co-parenting partnership. I am sure you are thinking at this point, ‘Yeah, like going to bed is really going to fix all my problems.” Well, no it isn’t.
To ‘sleep on it’ can literally mean going to bed without taking action and waking up the next morning with a clearer outlook. The less literal interpretation would be to simply step back from the situation until you can see the solution from a logical and more detached aspect. It is clear that while either interpretation does not solve the problem on its own, it does aid you in getting to the root of the issue. Let’s go over each definition of the method and how it can help you become a healthier, happier co-parent.
THE LITERAL INTERPRETATION
Co-parents deal day to day with problems ranging from the small, such as children’s attitudes or scheduling, to large issues, such as custody battles or a child’s health and safety. Every time a new path is introduced, parents have to go over the various ways to handle the situation, and inevitably there will be a disagreement. How these disagreements are managed directly affect your child and your ongoing relationship with your co-parenting partner. It is difficult to put our wants and needs on the back burner and that can cloud our judgement when working through a problem with our co-parent.
By literally delaying your decision and going to bed first, you allow everyone the time to see all sides of a decision. Sleeping allows our unconscious mind to sift through the emotions we attach to an experience and file them away. Upon waking, we have a clearer sight line of the end result and a better understanding of the consequences of our actions.
Studies have shown that sleeping helps you make more unbiased decisions, and helps alleviate the stress associated with problem solving.
Will you wake up and have the exact answer you needed? Maybe, but most likely not. However, you will wake up with a brain that is ready to be put to work and that is better able to provide a solution.
It can even be as basic as waking up and starting with a clean slate. So go to bed for the night, or take a nap, but give your brain the time it needs to clear out the cobwebs.
Thinking a problem over, and looking at all the angles will never be a regret in your life.
It only opens the door for better opportunities and better communication. In creating open and honest communication lines, you reduce the chance for emotion to rear its ugly head and cause tension. When the time comes that you need that moment, just ask for it or take it.
THE METAPHORICAL INTERPRETATION
If we don’t take the ‘Sleep On It’ method so literally, it opens up a range of possible directions to take when you are stressed over a decision, cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel, or are so overrun with emotions that you know a logical answer isn’t coming. Sometimes we make rash decisions and then kick ourselves afterwards because we thought of a better solution but it is too late. We can get wrapped up in our egos and feel our way is the only right way, but in hindsight we find there were several other options that were equally as great.
Instead of actually sleeping, just take a step back. Get away from the problem for a little while, or get away from your co-parenting partner until you are better able to look at the disagreement calmly and responsibly. For example, you could seek advice from family and friends, make a pros and cons list, or use this time to walk a few miles in the other person’s shoes. Anything you do is going to be a step towards a more thoughtful and proper decision. You also gain confidence by taking this moment, because when you return to the situation you are better prepared with logic and reason instead of feelings or anger.
Participating in a disagreement with a co-parent usually has the possibility of the experience turning ugly. Each parent wants to have a say in their child’s life, and it can be hard to give up the reins even to another parent. When you do not walk away, and you continue to push your viewpoint very little actually gets accomplished. Instead of considering all the options, you get wrapped up in the fight or get your feelings hurt. As parents you end up wasting an opportunity to help your child down the appropriate path and spend it quarreling.
Decisions are not always going to come easy, and they are not always going to go the way you thought or planned. Sometimes that is because of a co-parent, sometimes the child throws a wrench in things, or could be your new partner has a different idea. Try not to look at these deviations as something bad, instead always think of them as beneficial tools.
Finding a solution through collaboration, respect, and thinking outside the box is always better than working within narrow parameters. Avoid using your temporary emotions to make a permanent decision, your emotions will change from one second to the next but your actions have consequences that can last a lifetime.