For many guys, it would be ideal to completely cut ties with their ex after their divorce is final and move on with their lives. For dads, that just isn’t possible. When you have minor children, your connection to your ex never completely ends, regardless of how the two of you get along.
This leaves you two options: You can hold onto your feelings of bitterness and anger and create a hostile situation for you, your ex, and most significantly your children; or you can agree to act like adults, put your differences aside and learn the best ways to effectively co-parent, which is certainly what is in the best interests of your kids.
Of course, saying you’ll put your differences aside is a lot easier than doing it in practice, but successfully co-parenting is probably the best thing you can do to protect your children from the potential negative effects of divorce. That in and of itself should be enough motivation for you to want to be the best co-parent you can possibly be.
There are almost certain to be some bumps along the way, especially if you have an uncooperative ex. But if you ever start to feel frustrated ask yourself this simple question: Which feeling is stronger, your displeasure of your ex or your love of your children?
Now that you’ve determined your children’s well-being is the most important thing in your life, here are some tips to help you develop a healthy co-parenting relationship with your ex.
Consider the connection you must maintain with your ex like a business relationship. You’ve surely had a co-worker who you didn’t much care for, but you were still able to remain professional in the workplace.
You don’t have to like your ex in order to get along. If she’s especially frustrating then keep your communications short and business-like. Maintain your cool during pickups and drop-offs and you’ll be fine.
Clear and consistent communication might be the biggest key to effective co-parenting. You and your ex need to be on the same page on all matters affecting your kids.
For some divorced couples, face-to-face interactions are difficult, but you can maintain communication through texts and emails and that has the added benefit of giving you a chance to review your message before you send it.
Update each other
In joint custody situations, the primary and non-custodial parent are entitled to information about the child regarding things like medical issues, education, legal troubles, etc. As co-parents, you shouldn’t be hiding this information from each other.
Send a quick text or email when you get your child’s report card. Give them a call when your kid needs some medication to get over the flu. These simple little gestures can show you’re being considerate and help build trust between you and your ex.
Your parenting plan is a court order as soon as you, your ex, and the judge sign it, but there are inevitably going to be times when your schedules conflict. It could be that you have a work meeting that takes you out of town during your scheduled weekend. Or maybe your ex has a family emergency during their time with the kids.
Being good co-parents means working through these difficulties to come up with a plan that works for everyone. Be reasonable when it comes to scheduling conflicts and your ex will likely extend you the same favor when the shoe is on the other foot.
Getting angry every time something happens outside of your ex’s control is a surefire way to develop unnecessary animosity.
Create ground rules
Your child’s transition from one household to the other needs to be as seamless as possible. You and your ex are sure to have different parenting styles, and that’s OK, but the basic rules of behavior should be mostly consistent.
Try your best to come to an agreement with your ex about important issues like bed time, stipulations regarding homework, and expected discipline.
Protect your kids from conflict
Above all else, you and your ex need to shield your kids from any and all conflict. Disagreements will arise from time to time. That’s only natural, but remember that it is for your children’s benefit that the two of you remain amicable. You should try to avoid all-out arguments all the time, but if you do come to blows then make sure it is not in front of the kids.
Interacting with your ex is not an ideal situation. But you can drastically improve the situation by maintaining common courtesy and constantly reminding yourself that this effort isn’t for you or your ex, but for your kids.