Although divorce is the legal end of your marriage, you don’t typically ever get to completely sever all ties with your ex-spouse. If you have children, the two of you will now need to work together as co-parents.
Finding ways to effectively co-parent is one of the best ways you can help neutralize the negative effects divorce can have on your kids. But that is easier said than done, especially in high-conflict relationships.
Here are some tips and pointers to keep in mind as you communicate and work with your ex to form a healthy and productive co-parenting relationship.
Your co-parenting relationship with your ex is a business relationship
Treat your relationship with your ex-spouse as a business relationship.
That means keeping the communication simple in nature and refraining from discussing personal matters involving your relationship with her. Holding onto old grudges and rehashing why your marriage didn’t work out is only going to cause trouble for both of you.
Keep your conversations focused on matters involving your kids, and communicate directly with your ex. Avoid using the kids as a go-between to communicate messages. That only serves to give your children anxiety and doesn’t help your co-parenting relationship.
Do not degrade your ex in front of kids
No matter what happens, refrain from talking poorly about your ex in front of your kids. Even if she is being disagreeable, you need to remember that this is your children’s mother and you need to be respectful.
If you need to vent, find a friend, close relative, or counselor to talk to. However, even when discussing the opposing party with other members of your support system, you need to make sure there is no chance that the children can overhear your conversation.
Do not fight with your ex in front of kids
On that same note, never fight with your ex in front of your children.
You need to try as hard as possible to keep all communication civil, polite, and direct. This takes a lot of patience if you have an ex who is constantly trying to start arguments, but no matter what do not engage in those disagreements. Love your children more than you hate your ex.
It is also healthy to periodically take a timeout and reflect on how your behavior and interactions with your ex are affecting your kids. Sometimes, a little time for reflection allows you to calm down and gives you a new perspective that can improve your co-parenting relationship.
Keep in mind, you’re never going to be able to change who the opposing party is. So don’t waste your time trying. Instead, use that energy to figure out a methodology by which you can work with them. Because you’re stuck dealing with them regardless of how frustrating they might be.
If you have an ex who incessantly picks fights, you might need to consider a parallel parenting arrangement to minimize the amount of contact you have with her.
Let go of control issues
You need to accept that you have no control over what happens in the opposing party’s household. So as long as your kids are not in any danger and there isn’t anything detrimental to their well-being going on, let go of whatever control concerns you might have.
You and your ex might have drastically different parenting styles. That’s OK. You need to come to an agreement on some basic things to ensure your kids always remain safe and healthy, but it’s fine if you each approach parenting a little bit differently.
Control what you can control and let the rest of it go. Just like every stage of divorce, attitude is everything.
No complaining to the other parent
If there is an issue you need to discuss with your ex, approach them in a respectful fashion. But you do not need to be airing a laundry list of grievances every time you talk.
You’re much more likely to get them to cooperate with you if your communication is respectful. Instead of launching into a list of complaints and starting a fight, ask them, “Would you consider moving Johnny’s bedtime up an hour? His teacher mentioned he’s been acting tired during the day.”
Focus on the facts, not the drama
You’re likely going to hear about how things are going in your ex’s household from your children. Take everything they say with a grain of salt, especially if you hear something concerning.
If you hear something you feel you need to discuss with your ex, do not approach them with an accusatory tone. You’ll want to use your kids’ exact words when raising the issue, “Hey, Billy said you are letting him stay up past his normal bedtime to watch movies. I’m concerned because I want to make sure he’s getting enough rest with all he has going on at school. Can we talk about this?”
Silence your support system
You have a support system of people there for you to help you through this transition, but they do not need to be meddling in your co-parenting relationship. That’s not their role.
Too many times a new spouse or grandparent will give their two cents regarding how you’re handling your co-parenting relationship with the opposing party, and that only serves to stir up trouble. It isn’t constructive, it doesn’t improve communication, and it breeds resentment between you and your ex.
Your friends and family need to respect the fact that the manner in which you deal with your ex may not be the way they would deal with them.
You’re the parent. Your ex is the parent. And your support system should not have any input into the co-parenting relationship the two of you have. They can help in other ways.