Making Co-parenting Work
Co-parenting: just the thought is overwhelming! Your kids are your top priority, and it’s tough to give up control of them to the person you couldn’t bear to live with any longer. Even with a fairly decent relationship with your former spouse, co-parenting can bring tough times. For those who have a terrible relationship to begin with, it makes a challenging situation that much more difficult. But hear this: you can make things work, regardless of your co-parent’s ability to cooperate. Here’s how.
1- Put the kids’ needs first: Every decision related to the kids has got to be based on what will provide the best outcome for them, whether your ex is on board with that thinking or not. So get ready to have to bite your tongue instead of saying something cutting or cynical, and be prepared to give your ex a few unearned breaks now and then. It may sting your pride, but when you think about how it’ll benefit your children, it’ll be worth every bit of effort.
2- Try looking at your ex through your kids’ eyes: Sure, your former spouse is a bit of an oaf in your eyes–but who do your kids see? Is it a great tennis coach, a funny sidekick on Saturday afternoons, or maybe an uplifting adult who loves them? Allow them that and try to see it as well. Just because your ex was less than an ideal partner, it doesn’t follow that they have no parenting skills. So give everyone a break and look for the positive parenting that goes on. Maybe even share an accolade about it every now and then!
3- Don’t try to control the way your ex runs their house: So you never let the kids watch TV after dinner and your ex does. You want the kids in bed at 9:00, but it’s 10:00 in the other house. While these kinds of things may feel all important at the time, please realize that kids can live under two different sets of rules and turn out to be perfectly fine adults in the future. Unless there’s something wildly unwholesome going on, don’t pick fights over every little thing that goes on in the other house. Chill out!
4- Really listen to your kids: Maybe there will be times that they really miss their other parent. Acknowledge their feelings and let them know that you understand how tough the divorce has been on them. You don’t have to make everything all better for them—you just need to allow them to experience their feelings and know they are supported and loved throughout. Listening doesn’t mean solving. It just means listening.
5- Own it when you fall short: You don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to own up to your mistakes. If at some point you let a disparaging thought about your ex slip out, don’t just justify and rationalize with your kids. Acknowledge that you made a mistake and encourage a healthy relationship with their other parent.
6- Encourage new relationships your kids have: At some point your ex may want to introduce the kids to someone special. Your knee-jerk reaction may be to resist that. But why? Is it because it won’t be good for the kids, or because you’re peeved that someone new will have a chance to impact their lives? Instead of making it an issue, try celebrating the opportunity for more love in their lives. Certainly, protect them from dangerous encounters—but make sure you’re being honest with yourself about your actions.
Divorce is never easy, but at Courtney & Mills our dedicated Springfield divorce attorneys are always there to support the best possible outcomes. Contact us in our office today for a confidential consultation.