Co-parenting amicably with your ex can give your children stability and close relationships with both parents, but it is rarely easy. Putting aside relationship issues to co-parent agreeably can be fraught with stress. Despite the many challenges, it is possible to develop a cordial working relationship with your ex for the sake of your children.
With these tips, you can remain calm, stay consistent, and avoid or resolve conflict with your ex and make joint custody work.
Joint custody arrangements, especially after an acrimonious split, can be exhausting and infuriating. It can be extremely difficult to get past the painful history you may have with your ex and overcome any built-up resentment. Making shared decisions, interacting with each another at drop-offs, or just speaking to a person you’d rather forget all about can seem like impossible tasks. But while it’s true that co-parenting isn’t an easy solution, it is the best way to ensure your children’s needs are met and they are able to retain close relationships with both parents.
It may be helpful to start thinking of your relationship with your ex as a completely new one—one that is entirely about the well-being of your children, and not about either of you. Your marriage may be over, but your family is not; doing what is best for your kids is your most important priority. The first step to being a mature, responsible co-parent is to always put your children’s needs ahead of your own.
Co-parenting is the best option for your children
Through your parenting partnership, your children should recognise that they are more important than the conflict that ended the marriage and understands that your love for them will prevail despite changing circumstances. Children whose divorced parents have a cooperative relationship:
– Feel secure: When confident of the love of both parents, kids adjust more quickly and easily to divorce and have better self-esteem.
– Benefit from consistency: Co-parenting fosters similar rules, discipline, and rewards between households, so children know what to expect, and what’s expected of them.
– Better understand problem solving: Children who see their parents continuing to work together are more likely to learn how to effectively and peacefully solve problems themselves.
– Have a healthy example to follow: By cooperating with the other parent, you are establishing a life pattern your children can carry into the future.
Co-parenting tips for divorced parents: Setting hurt and anger aside
The key to co-parenting is to focus on your children—and your children only. Yes, this can be very difficult. It means that your own emotions—any anger, resentment, or hurt—must take a back seat to the needs of your children. Admittedly, setting aside such strong feelings may be the hardest part of learning to work cooperatively with your ex, but it’s also perhaps the most vital. Co-parenting is not about your feelings, or those of your ex-spouse, but rather about your child’s happiness, stability, and future well-being.
Separating feelings from behaviour
It’s okay to be hurt and angry, but your feelings don’t have to dictate your behaviour. Instead, let what’s best for your kids—you working cooperatively with the other parent—motivate your actions. Get your feelings out somewhere else.
– Never vent to your child. Friends, therapists, or even a loving pet can all make good listeners when you need to get negative feelings off your chest.
– Exercise can also be a healthy outlet for letting off steam.
– Stay child-focused, if you feel angry or resentful, try to remember why you need to act with purpose as your child’s best interests are at stake. If your anger feels overwhelming, look at a photograph of your child to help you calm down.
– Use your body. Consciously putting your shoulders down, breathing evenly and deeply, and standing erect can keep you distracted from your anger, and can have a relaxing effect.
Children in the middle
You may never completely lose all of your resentment or bitterness about your break up, but what you can do is compartmentalise those feelings and remind yourself that they are your issues, not your child’s.
– Never use children as messengers. When you have your child tell the other parent something for you, it puts him or her in the centre of your conflict. The goal is to keep your child out of your relationship issues, so call or email your ex yourself.
– Never say negative things about your ex to your children, or make them feel like they have to choose. Your child has a right to a relationship with his or her other parent that is free of your influence.
Resolve to keep your issues with your ex away from your children and put their needs first.