Tips for Co-Parenting after Divorce
Here are some Tips for Co-parenting
1. Communication with your ex
Our first tips for co-parenting involves being peaceful, consistent, and purposeful communication with your ex , this is essential —even though it may seem absolutely impossible. It all begins with your mindset. Think about communication with your ex as having the highest purpose: your child’s well-being. Before contact with your ex, ask yourself how your talk will affect your child, and resolve to conduct yourself with dignity. Make your child the focal point of every discussion you have with your ex-partner.
Communication with your ex is likely to be a tough task. Remember that it isn’t always necessary to meet your ex in person – speaking over the phone or exchanging texts or emails is fine for the majority of conversations. The goal is to establish conflict-free communication, so see which type of contact works best for you. Whether talking via email, phone or in person, the following methods can help you initiate and maintain effective communication:
- Set a business-like tone. Approach the relationship with your ex as a business partnership where your “business” is your children’s well-being. Speak or write to your ex as you would a colleague—with cordiality, respect, and neutrality. Relax and talk slowly.
- Make requests. Instead of making statements, which can be misinterpreted as demands, try framing as much as you can as requests. Requests can begin with: “Would you be willing to…?” or “Can we try…?”.
- Listen. Communicating with maturity starts with listening. Even if you end up disagreeing with the other parent, you should at least be able to convey to your ex that you’ve understood his or her point of view. And listening does not signify approval, so you won’t lose anything by allowing your ex to voice his or her opinions.
- Show restraint. Keep in mind that communicating with one another is going to be necessary for the length of your children’s entire childhood—if not longer. You can train yourself to not overreact to your ex, and over time you can become numb to the buttons he or she tries to push.
- Commit to meeting/talking consistently. Frequent communication with your ex will convey the message to your children that you and their other parent are a united front. This may be extremely difficult in the early stages of your divorce or separation.
- Keep conversations kid-focused. You can control the content of your communication. Never let a discussion with your ex-partner digress into a conversation about your needs or his/her needs; it should always be about your child’s needs only.
2. Setting hurt & anger aside
The second Co-parenting tip addresses , ” 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 behavior. 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 kid-focused. If you feel angry or resentful, try to remember why you need to act with purpose and grace: your child’s best interests are at stake. If your anger feels overwhelming, looking at a photograph of your child may 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 compartmentalize those feelings and remind yourself that they are your issues, not your child’s. Resolve to keep your issues with your ex away from your children.
Never use kids as messengers. When you have your child tell the other parent something for you, it puts him or her in the center of your conflict. The goal is to keep your child out of your relationship issues, so call or email your ex yourself.
Keep your issues to 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.
Authors: Jocelyn Block, M.A. and Melinda Smith, M.A.