Even more joyful than the joys of single parenting are the joys of co-parenting with your ex. (If you cannot sense the sarcasm, let me assure you that it’s there). You will forever be bonded to the person you once shared a life with, a family with, and forever a child (or children) with. No matter what he did to you, you did to him, or you guys did to each other, there’s a little person that the two of you created in the middle of it all. And while your hatred for your ex may burn as hot as the fire of a thousand suns, you liked him long enough at one point to procreate and now for the sake of this child, you must remain at the very least cordial with your ex. This might be one of the most challenging things you will have to do, but it is worth it for the sake of the kiddo(s). So, how to do people successfully co-parent with their ex? Here are 5 tips that might help.
1. Act Like the Adult You Are At All Times
Don’t get me wrong. Many times, I’ve wanted to stomp my feet and kick and scream (I think I may have once or twice) when dealing with my ex-husband. But I don’t. I don’t yell and scream and cry hysterically because I’m an adult and as such, I have the capabilities of communicating with words, controlling my emotions and controlling my behavior.
I’m not saying that it is always easy…but it can be done. Don’t believe me? Here’s an example: Have you’ve ever been angry at someone and began arguing with them heatedly, raising your voice, and maybe throwing around some choice words here and there? Then right in the middle of it, the phone rings and you pleasantly answer it, politely and graciously? So, you can control your anger.
Acting like an adult means:
- Not using your children as a go between
- Not venting to your children
- Choosing to ignore your resentment (at least when the children are present)
- Focusing on the needs and best interest of your child at all times
- Communicating civilly with your ex for the sake of your children
But what if he is being an a-hole? You cannot control the way he acts. You can only control yourself (it’s a part of being an adult) and how you react. You don’t have to be his friend, his confidant, or his mom – that’s no longer your job (and THANK THE GOOD LORD for that). You don’t have to be anything other than respectful for the sake of your child. The only time my ex-husband and I communicate is to discuss issues regarding our daughter. He may try to chat, send smiley emoticons, or tell me he misses me, but those messages get ignored (and thankfully, few and far between). But if it pertains to our child, I will talk to him and it will be a priority.
[RELATED ARTICLE: MY ONE PIECE OF ADVICE FOR PARENTS]
2. Focus on Your Children
Never forget that your child(ren’s) well-being is the priority, and hopefully that is the goal for both you and your ex. Come in with that mindset and communicate with your ex in a manner that is beneficial for your children. My ex and I only communicate through text message or email. When I pick up our daughter, if my ex and I speak, it’s usually very brief and only pertains to something one of us needs to know regarding our daughter and her needs.
Trust me when I say, this isn’t easy. What is easy is getting caught up in the emotional, traumatic events surrounding your divorce and allowing emotion to overrule. You’ll become an expert in practicing self-control and holding your tongue, that’s for sure. Just keep your focus on that sweet little angel (or devil) of yours who is looking at you needing security and emotional support. Your child is always watching and how you act will shape their view of and affect their future relationships. That’s a heavy load to bear, but the choice we make when we become parents.
3. Never, Ever Speak Negatively About Your Ex to Your Children
For us ladies, this one is tough. We like to talk about everything and purge it all from our system. That’s fine, just grab a girlfriend and a bottle of wine and have at it. My best friend and I have had many anti-men chats over carb infused meals and alcoholic beverages. Gab with your mom, neighbor, co-worker, whomever…just DO NOT vent to your children about their father. Don’t do it.
Speaking negatively about your ex, even grimacing or making faces when his name is mentioned, can create lasting effects in your children. It can lead to further feelings of insecurity. Your child may lose respect for you, or you may inadvertently burden them to have to choose sides. Your job as a parent is to make sure your child feels safe, loved, and stable in a situation that may be very unstable.
Also, for stress-free co-parenting, you and your ex need to both retain your parental authority and disparaging him may cause your child to lose respect for your ex. You should not allow your child to speak negatively or disrespectfully about their father as well (even if he deserves it). Soon enough they will grow up and perhaps learn what really happened to break up the marriage and at that point, they will be old enough to think for themselves and how they feel about each parent. Take the high road and keep your mouth shut.
4. Be Honest and Open With Your Children
The day is coming when my daughter is going to put two and two together and realize that her father’s infidelities broke up our family. I’ve run the scenario in my mind numerous times. What would I say? How would I approach it? It all depends on her age, but I will always tell my daughter the truth – it will all be a matter of how I word it. Kids are smart. They will figure things out.
I have a friend whose kids found out about dad’s “friend” and ended up confronting dad about it. He lied to them and they realized that they could not trust their father to tell them the truth and want nothing to do with him. How sad is that?
For now, I’m working toward an open and honest relationship with my daughter. I want her to be able to come talk to me and open up to me about her struggles, goals, dreams, and fears. I want her to be able to feel like I’m safe enough to tell her secrets to. This isn’t easy, especially as we enter the preteen years.
One way I’m trying to facilitate an open relationship with my daughter is through journaling. I bought us a journal called, Just Between Us: A No-Stress, No-Rules Journal for Girls and Their Moms. We went out for froyo and read to each other the first pages of the book. I hope that this will open more doors for communication between us.
5. Work Together With Your Ex
It’s important that you and your ex work together in the areas of discipline and rules. Parenting is difficult, even more so as a single parent and multitudes more as a successful co-parent. Even if you and your ex are done as a couple, you are not ever done as parents – even when they turn 18. At least until your child is old enough to vote, you and your ex MUST strive to work together and be consistent, especially when it comes to discipline and rules of each household.
My ex-husband sent a list of rules for our daughter’s iPod and its usage, which we discussed via email. We’ve discussed how to discipline her attitude and disrespect, and our daughter knows that she cannot play us against each other. When she was younger, we talked about the movies she could watch and what she could be exposed to via media. Since I homeschool, education is always a topic that comes up.
Together, you and your ex made a child (or children). Those children are both of your responsibilities and if you are fortunate, your ex is a better father than he was a spouse. Of course, this requires cooperation from both parties, and I realize that not everyone has that luxury. If your ex refuses to work with you on raising the children, then you can only do the best you can in raising your children to be respectful, functioning creatures with or without him.
Stress-free co-parenting is possible, but It requires a lot of patience, biting your tongue, and taking the high road for the greater good (healthy, happy kids). It’s definitely not easy by any means, but your child is worth the effort.
Do you have any tips or experiences with co-parenting? Please comment below.
Do you know someone who needs to hear this message? Please share this post.
Side note: I’m slowly (very slowly) working my way through redesigning this blog – and trying to get in the writing schedule of at least once a week, with the goal of moving to 3x a week, then back to everyday. But not yet. There are too many things on my plate at the moment, but I appreciate you sticking with me.