Marriage is a life-changing event, though perhaps not as life-changing as a divorce, especially if there are children involved. Divorce makes parenting exponentially more difficult because children need stability. They need independent relationships with each parent, free from the influence of any negativity between the two parents. It’s called co-parenting and it’s a concept that recognizes that children need TWO parents who understand and respect the importance of one other in those children’s lives, despite their feelings for each other. Here are some tips on co-parenting with your ex, even if your former spouse isn’t cooperative:
Communicate in a Civil Manner
Communication with an ex can be a stressor, but in the case of children, it is necessary. You must endeavor to make that communication as painless for both parties as you can. Don’t let emotion overshadow communication. Assume a business-like demeanor, stick to the subject at hand and be polite, even if your ex is not.
Do Not Vent to Your Children
Vent to a friend or family member. Vent to a pastor or counselor, but do not EVER criticize your ex in front of or to your children. Tearing down the other parent puts the child in the awkward and unwinnable position of having to choose sides. Agree with you and they forsake the other parent. Defend the other parent and their loyalty to you is in question. Do not put them in the position of having to choose, because the only loser in such a situation is the child.
Do Not Discuss Finances with the Children
Finances are adult issues. The fact your ex is late on child support is none of the child’s business. If you think the ex gets too much alimony or spends child support foolishly, keep in mind, the child has no say and no control over such issues and should not be burdened with your opinion of the other parent’s choices.
Coordinate Holidays and Special Occasions
Each parent deserves to share in special occasions with their children. Parents who can work out such issues amicably will have happier children. Holidays, birthdays and vacation time must be split equitably between both parents. Sporting events, performances and recitals are times when both parents will want to be and should be present when possible. Being able to exist peacefully in close proximity to one another will ensure that such times remain about the child and not about your problems with your ex.
Learn to Accept Your Ex’s New Partner
You don’t have to like them. They don’t have to like you. You just need to make sure the child has the freedom to form a relationship with the new partner without offending you. It’s best to keep your opinions on the new partner to yourself.
Let Your Kids Know They are Loved and Valued
Nothing is more important to a child than love. They must be reassured by both parents that nothing will ever deminish that love and that they can live their life and make their choices free from the burden of wondering whether or not they are loved at home.
It is not enough that a custodial parent merely “allow” a relationship with the other parent, they must “encourage” it. By following these co-parenting tips, you can help make the aftermath of divorce much less stressful on your children.