Co-parenting can be stressful and frustrating when you have a strained relationship with your ex, but it’s not impossible.
For the sake of your children’s well being it’s necessary to figure out a way to co-parent effectively. You don’t have to have a perfect relationship with your ex, but you do have to be civil.
“Co-parenting requires empathy, patience and open communication for success. Not an easy thing to achieve for couples who’ve encountered marital issues. However, placing the sole focus on your children can be a great way of helping to make co-parenting a positive experience,” says Dr. Deborah Serani, in an article on Psychology Today.
While many of your priorities may have changed since your divorce, hopefully being a great parent is still at the top of the list. Post-divorce, in order to be the best parent you can be, you’ll need to learn to be the best co-parent you can be. Here are five tips for moving past the drama and on to a functional co-parenting relationship:
1. Kids Come First
You may never want to see your ex again, but chances are your kids do, or at the very least, legally, they have to. They have a right to develop a healthy relationship with both of their parents. As the parent, it’s your job to put aside your frustrations and bitterness and remember that you children’s needs come first. They will thrive in a stable, consistent and peaceful environment. As the parent, it’s also your job to maintain the co-parenting relationship. Never put your children in the middle of you and your ex. They should never be expected to deliver messages, act as a go-between or have to listen to you speak badly about or to your ex.
2. Make A Plan And Stick To It
While custody arrangements may already be agreed upon concerning who goes where and when, there are plenty of other aspects of co-parenting that will need to be determined as soon as possible. Some of these aspects include very practical decisions and some are more personal.
“Draw up a co-parenting agreement that outlines exchange procedures, how you’ll handle requests for time modifications, how and when you’ll communicate, and where you will maintain important information about the kids,” according to beenke.com. These practical things set the expectation for a basic working relationship.
Some of the more personal decisions that need to be made include: house rules that are consistent in both homes, bedtimes, involvement of extended family, holidays, etc. Working through these things ahead of time can prevent arguments in the future.
If you are not happy with your current custody arrangement, modifications to the schedule are possible, but may not be as easy as you’d hope.
3. Communicate Respectfully
The most important reason to communicate respectfully is to protect your kids. Don’t badmouth your ex in front of them and don’t allow them to speak poorly of your ex. When they are present, keep conversations calm and civil. Your children have already experienced a great deal of change and if your marriage was rocky, they likely experienced more than enough negativity, it’s time to turn a new leaf, let go of the past and do what’s best for them.
“We have all been exposed to enough pop psychology to know that ongoing conflict after a split will affect a child psychologically, but studies now show that ongoing conflict between parents affects their child’s brain development. Very simply, if you can’t find a way to be cordial you and your [ex] are contributing to your child’s mental illness. This sounds rather dramatic, but true all the same,” says Jann Blackstone for The Detroit News.
Determine ahead of time an agreed upon method of communication and do your best to adhere to it. If you can’t see each other in person without stirring up old arguments, stick to texts and emails. If necessary, limit your conversations to the scope of what’s necessary for caring for your children. If you want better communication, start by doing better yourself, and hopefully your ex will respond in kind. Sending a friendly picture or update while the kids are with you could be a nice gesture.
4. Make Transitions Easy and Consistent
Transitioning back and forth between homes can be difficult for children, regardless of how frequently they make the switch. To do your best at co-parenting, there are some simple, practical ways to make the transition easier each time. Start by preparing them ahead of time. Let them know the day before what time you’ll be dropping them off to their other parent. Provide personal items in your home so your child has less to carry and make sure they have appropriate luggage for toting their belongings back and forth. Beenke advises, “Always drop off, never pick up your child. It’s a good idea to avoid “taking” your child from your co-parent if it can be avoided so you don’t risk interrupting a special moment (and having the weirdness blamed on you). Drop off your child and have your ex do the same.”
5. Take The High Road
Don’t succumb to meaningless arguments, petty name-calling, or spiteful behavior. Try not to let your ex push your buttons or fluster you, but stay calm, cool and collected. Try to see things from their perspective or through your child’s eyes. Successful co-parenting means letting go of the past and moving forward with your child’s best interests at heart. Psychology Today says, “Each of you has valuable strengths as a parent. Remember to recognize the different traits you and your Ex have – and reinforce this awareness with your children. Speaking positively about your Ex teaches children that despite your differences, you can still appreciate positive things about your Ex. ‘Mommy’s really good at making you feel better when you’re sick. I know, I’m not as good as she is.’ It also directs children to see the positive qualities in his or her parent too. ‘Daddy’s much better at organizing things than I am.’”
Remember, you aren’t doing any of this for your ex, but for your children. They are the priority and should be at the center of every decision that is made between you and your ex. If your relationship with your ex takes a turn for the worse, a family law attorney can help you understand your rights and responsibilities regarding child custody and child support. The attorneys at The Alabama Law Group are available to offer counsel and legal advice for any family law issues. Contact us today!