Was 2017 a bad year for you and your co-parent? Resolve to turn things around in 2018. Co-parenting is a skill than you can improve with practice. Read on for tips on how you can get along better with your ex.
- Get over being angry. It’s easy to become addicted to anger. It distracts you from the difficult task of creating a whole new life. It keeps you psychologically entangled with your co-parent, which is the exact opposite of what you want if you’re to move forward. If you find that you’re constantly marinating in bitterness, get professional help to work through your anger.
- Be polite. Say please and thank you. Tell your ex you appreciate his efforts to be a good co-parent (even if he or she is not as “good” as you want). Treating your former spouse with respect and highlighting his positive behaviors will encourage him to do the same.
- Practice good communication skills. Don’t use the written word as a weapon! The purpose of emails and texts is to deliver facts and logistics, not to lash out at your co-parent, or try to convince him of the error of his ways. Keeping your messages simple and devoid of emotion will help maintain an amicable co-parenting relationship.
- Don’t try to control what your co-parent does in his house. Unless actual abuse or neglect is present, what goes on in your ex’s house is none of your business. Resist the urge to give “helpful advice.” Don’t triangulate the kids by telling them you’ll intercede if they don’t like Mom or Dad’s rules. In order to co-parent effectively, you need to respect your former spouse’s right to run his household the way he sees fit.
- Manage your emotional reactivity. If you’re always in conflict with your ex, figure out what you may be doing to create and/or perpetuate drama. Are you engaging in email battles? Do you exchange angry words in front of the kids? Bullies want to get a rise out of you, so if you yell, cry, lecture, or become defensive, your antagonistic ex will just look for more ways to upset you. Don’t give him (or her) that satisfaction! Practice your coping skills so you can modulate your own emotions around your ex.
- Follow the court orders. Pay child support on time. Stick to the visitation schedule. Handle shared child-related expenses as set forth in your agreement. Making a unilateral decision to ignore your court order will certainly pull your children into conflict and possibly result in less custody for you.
- Respect your ex’s time with the kids. Don’t call/text/FaceTime your kids multiple times during your ex’s visitation. Don’t make your kids feel guilty for having a good time with their other parent. Don’t try to chip away at visitation by being late for drop-offs or keeping the kids longer than allowed. No matter what you think of your ex, he has a right to his parenting time.
- Respect co-parenting rules. Some divorced couples are able to agree on basic rules: discipline, bedtimes, policies about electronics and homework. If you agreed to do something, follow through. Otherwise, your ex will be less inclined to hold up their end of the bargain.
- Don’t blame your ex for your child’s problems. If your child is acting out, struggling in school, or just reminds you of your ex, resist the urge to turn your co-parent into the scapegoat. Blame never solved a problem or changed someone else; your former spouse will not have an epiphany and thank you for setting them straight. All blame does is ignite more battles that will distract you from focusing on your child.
- Be civil in public. Don’t be that divorced couple that everyone dreads seeing. Be a grown-up and interact appropriately with your ex when you’re attending parent conferences, birthday parties, school events, or anywhere you’re around others. Demonstrating animosity towards your ex – via nasty words, grandstanding, or dramatic body language — will make the most important people (your children!) anxious.
- Practice self-care. If you’re physically, emotionally, or spiritually depleted, you will be more likely to feel victimized by your ex – or do some victimizing. Everything, including your co-parenting relationship, will function better when you do. So make sure you’re sleeping and eating properly, taking care of your physical health, and doing things that you enjoy.
- Support your child’s relationship with your co-parent. As a co-parent, your #1 job is to facilitate your child’s relationship with your ex. This means no bad-mouthing, no trying to sabotage their bond with your child or impede their parenting time, or lobby for The Favorite Parent Award. Envy and competition have no place in a co-parenting relationship. So be a grown-up, put your feelings for your ex aside, and be grateful that your child has two parents who love him. If either of you just can’t succeed with this one, then assign yourself tip 12A: Explore “parallel parenting,” a parenting method that can still bring calm to high conflict situations.
- Let go of the past. Harboring resentment, missing your old life, being angry about lost opportunities – all these obsessions are a waste of time and serve to keep you psychologically entangled with your ex. Having a good co-parenting relationship means breaking a toxic psychic bond so you can focus on your interactions in the present.
- Think of your co-parenting relationship as a business relationship. You no longer have a romantic relationship. You have a business relationship as co-CEOs of the Our Kid Company. The next time your ex does something that bugs you, pause and think about how you would handle conflict with a co-worker. Would you fire off hostile emails? Scream, cry, or lecture? Probably not, if you want your venture to be successful. You’d rise above your angry feelings and communicate with your ex in a way that invites cooperation.
- Don’t punish with money. Don’t play games with child support; send it in full and on time. Don’t lecture your ex on how he or she is supposed to spend spousal or child support. If your co-parent is struggling to make ends meet, your children will suffer. Think of support as a way of helping your kids, not as a way to make your ex miserable.
- Avoid going to court. If you follow court orders, this shouldn’t be a problem. Legitimate reasons to go to court include the children’s safety, a need to relocate, or a modification of child support due to financial hardship. Arguing over schools, doctors, vacation time, Little League, are not legitimate reasons to go to court! They are a means of keeping up the fight that will just make your children’s lives difficult.
- Maintain healthy boundaries. If you’re too accommodating, your ex will treat you like the doormat you’re allowing yourself to be. No matter what your former spouse says, you don’t have to do anything that’s not in the court order. And you don’t have to change your house rules because your ex says you should. Being a people-pleaser will create a topsy-turvy co-parenting relationship. Strive to keep things balanced by setting limits and sticking to them.
- Be grateful for your ex. Think of your ex as your teacher. What lessons have you gained from your relationship? What have you learned about yourself that you can use to create a better life? If you stop thinking of your ex as the devil who ruined your life and start thinking of him as the impetus for personal growth, your co-parenting skills – and your life – will improve.
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