After going through a divorce, the way you look at your former spouse could change dramatically. A high-conflict divorce will exacerbate feelings of anger, frustration, or betrayal, making it difficult for ex-spouses to be in each other’s lives. Even if you managed to have a civilized divorce that doesn’t mean you’re looking forward to spending time with each other in the future. When you share a child, any desire to sever ties with your ex is likely to be thwarted – and that makes it difficult to co-parent effectively.
Co-parenting with your former partner can be a huge challenge. The person that you may never want to see again will continue to be a consistent factor in your life for the rest of your life. I know that just thinking about this fact could cause a headache or two, but it is important to remember that your kids should be your first priority right now. Your child needs both of you to help raise them, guide them, and teach them. Studies show that children of divorce do better if they have ample access to both parents – so you must find a way to co-parenting effectively for your children’s sake.
How to co-parent effectively
1. Start with Good Intentions
It’s not unlikely that you and your former spouse have different parenting styles. You may disagree on what school is the best for your child, or what diet they should be on. Try and remind yourself that just because you are no longer married, doesn’t make them your enemy.
Instead of using these disagreements as a reason to argue, remember that you and your ex-partner both have good intentions when it comes to your children. Remember that you are both fighting for what is best for them. Maintain an open line of communication with their other parent, and instead of arguing, calmly talk it out. Do not use parenting decisions as a way to give your former spouse a hard time.
Don’t simply bicker just because you still have ill feelings toward them. Parenting in general often means compromising and allowing their father or mother to move forward with their parenting style. This doesn’t change when you are divorced.
2. Do Not Argue in Front of Your Children
I understand that this may be a big ask, however, it is imperative that you and your former partner are a united front while you’re with your children. This means that you shouldn’t discuss things that might cause an argument. For example, if there are still problems that you need to discuss in court, like child support and custody, try not to discuss these issues when you are doing pick ups and drop offs with your kids. Hire a family law attorney and communicate with them on what you’re looking for and what you need. Refrain from speaking to your ex about this outside the mediation room.
Allowing your children to see you argue can be detrimental to them. Don’t let them think that they are the reason you are upset. They will pick up on the negative energy and act out or feel that they are a burden.
3. Be Open to Schedule Changes
Most custody agreements will come with a set visitation schedule. However, life is often unpredictable and could cause you or your co-parent to be unavailable on your designated day. Instead of getting mad at your ex or giving them a hard time about not being able to care for your son or daughter, try to be understanding and allow the schedule change.
If this occurs on a regular basis, speak to them about changing the schedule permanently and switching days. Do not engage in an argument or heated discussion with them about it. Calmly approach it and work together to find a new visitation schedule that works.
Remember, it is very likely that you will need to switch days sometime in the future. If you’d like your former partner to compromise with you when this day comes, you will need to compromise too.
4. Remember Your Co-Parent’s Good Parenting Qualities
Before your relationship ended, there were good parenting qualities that you once admired about your ex. Keep those in mind when disagreements arise. Just because someone is no longer a great partner, doesn’t mean that they are not a good parent. Remind yourself of these qualities by talking to your child about what a wonderful job their father or mother may be doing. Doing this will reinforce the idea in your head and show your child that you two still appreciate and respect each other despite the divorce.
Learning how to co-parent effectively could be a long road with some bumps along the way. Be patient with one another, communicate respectfully, and compromise whenever possible and you will accelerate the process. Remember that you’re doing this hard work to raise happy, emotionally healthy kids. Isn’t it worth taking the high road to achieve that goal?
Amanda Lin is a freelance writer from Daly City, CA. She enjoys writing about personal relationships, music, technology, and more. When she is not writing, she enjoys traveling and finding new restaurants to try.