You and you ex are in constant turmoil over the kids as you adjust to life as co-parents. Is it always going to be this tense? The good news: probably not. Divorce takes time to heal from, for you and your kids, but chances are, it will get better. Need proof? Here’s a sample letter that you might be able to write to yourself in a few years explaining how you, your ex, and your kids re-established balance and harmony in your lives…
After all, wouldn’t it be great if you could jump ahead two years…to a time when your feelings of anger, grief and fear have evolved into acceptance and you and your ex have an amicable co-parenting relationship?
Twelve-Step groups teach the principle of “opposite action.” That means you practice the opposite of what you want to do, when you know what you want will hurt yourself and others. So try this: imagine you’re two years out from your divorce and you and your ex are getting along. What would you need to think and do differently in order for this to happen?
Now, write a letter from your wiser self to your former self in which you describe how your beliefs and behavior patterns have changed since your divorce. What has your wiser self learned about co-parenting? If you can start to apply this knowledge now, your co-parenting will change for the better — and so will your children’s lives.
What you’re thinking now: My ex is a terrible person and will damage the children!
What you’ll realize as time goes by: Your ex may have flaws, but be honest, don’t you have a few, too? People who physically abuse their children damage them; parents who are occasionally forgetful, or have lots of snacks in the house do not. It’s difficult to co-parent with Attila the Hun, so stop vilifying your ex. The more you can see this person as an imperfect human being — the same as you — the better co-parenting relationship you will have.
What you’re thinking now: My ex can’t manage their household and needs my help!
What you’ll realize as time goes by: You may not like what they do in his house, but guess what? It’s THEIR house, and their rules, not yours. Unless you have sound evidence that something egregious is going on in your ex’s house, butt out. Trying to control your former spouse just engenders conflict. Let it go.
What you’re thinking now: My ex left me and took my money and doesn’t deserve child support.
What you’ll realize as time goes by: Child support is for your children, not your ex. What’s more important? Enabling your kids to live in a comfortable home with a parent who isn’t preoccupied trying to meet their children’s basic needs? Or punishing your kids so you can punish your ex? Model responsibility to your children by paying child support in full and on time.
What you’re thinking now: I will never be happy if my kids love my ex more than me.
What you’ll realize as time goes by: Trying to turn your children against your ex will not make you happy, and more important, it will make your kids miserable. Children deserve a relationship with both parents. Obstructing this bond will hurt your kids’ ability to form healthy relationships later in life. It might also backfire and cause them to turn against you. If your feelings of anger and fear are that strong, get help: meditate, go to therapy, journal. Remember: you determine your happiness, not your kids or your ex.
What you’re thinking now: My ex is crazy, which is why I try to communicate as little as possible.
What you’ll realize as time goes by: Is your ex really crazy and incompetent? Or does the thought of seeing them make you feel crazy? Think of co-parenting like a job (which it is). What would you do if you had a difficult colleague? Refuse to work with them (and get fired)? Or set your feelings aside so you can exchange important information. Remember, your job is to solve conflict instead of create it. Make peace a priority in your relationship and you will likely reap the benefit tenfold — and so will your kids.
Have questions about divorce and child custody? Not sure how to establish positive co-parenting habits? We can help. Our family law attorneys are committed to safeguarding your children. Please contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation.