How to Successfully Co-Parent After a Divorce

After you finalize the nitty-gritty details of a divorce, the idea of never having to work out agreements or arrangements with your ex-partner again is probably an enticing one. If you have kids, however, that desire isn’t a realistic one. Unless there has been a history of domestic violence or substance abuse in your family, having both you and your ex play an active role in your children’s daily lives is the best way to ensure they are happy and have all of their needs met.

Also known as co-parenting, this arrangement tends to be easier said than done. If you had a contentious relationship with your ex-spouse, you’re going to face challenges having to make shared decisions, interact with them at drop-offs, and attend events like birthdays and graduations. Luckily, successful co-parenting is possible. Let’s take a look at a few tips that can help you make joint custody and co-parenting work.

Set Aside Strong Feelings

Setting aside any hurt or anger you feel towards your ex in the name of putting your children’s needs first is one of the toughest parts of co-parenting, but it’s also one of the most important. At its core, co-parenting is about your children’s happiness, stability, and future well-being. It’s not about your feelings or those of your ex-spouse. To get past lingering emotions, try to think of co-parenting with your ex as an entirely different relationship from the one you had when you were married.

Of course, you can’t just wish away strong feelings. The key is to not let them rule your behavior towards your children or your co-parent. Try to find a healthy outlet for your feelings. This could be through talking to your friends or a therapist or through activities like exercise or making art. If you feel resentful or angry towards your ex, just remember that your children’s best interests are at stake and that you need to act with civility and grace for their sake.

Don’t Put Children in the Middle

No matter how you deal with your feelings towards your ex, always remember that they are your issues and not your child’s. Never vent your feelings to your children, as this will only make them feel like they have to take one parent’s side over the other. Your children have a right to a healthy relationship with their other parent and your opinions can easily influence how they feel about your ex.

When you start to live separately from your ex and shuttle kids back and forth, it’s important to never use your kids as messengers between the two of you. About 75% of kids with divorced parents live with their mother, but plenty of children still visit their fathers on weekends or holidays. If you use your kids to convey messages as they go from one house to the other, however, it puts them in the center of your conflict. Keep them out of your relationship issues by calling or emailing your ex-spouse directly whenever you need to talk.

Establish Conflict-Free Communication

Having peaceful and consistent communication with your ex is key to successful co-parenting. It may seem impossible to achieve, especially right after the divorce, but it all begins with your mindset. Whenever you’re about to make contact with your ex, think about how your actions and what you say will affect your child and then decide to communicate with dignity. By making your child the focal point of every conversation you have with your ex, you can keep your emotions in check and your communication purposeful.

Keep in mind that you don’t always have to meet in person to communicate with your co-parent. For most conversations, texting, emailing, or speaking on the phone will be sufficient. No matter how you choose to communicate, try to set a business-like tone. Think of it as a business partnership in which your business is your children’s well-being. This will allow you to speak with them as you would with a work colleague. If you need to talk with them about your child wearing braces, a commitment which lasts an average of about two years, speak to them with respect, cordiality, and neutrality. It can also be helpful to make requests instead of statements. Instead of stating that your child has to get braces, you can start with a request to look into the orthodontic treatment with phrases like “Can we try…?” or “Would you be willing to…?” This way of approaching topics will prevent statements from seeming like demands and show that you’re willing to listen.

Co-parenting with your ex-spouse probably isn’t going to be simple or easy. Whether you’re making a major decision like where to send your child to school or a small one like who will pay for a lapel pin that they wear on their clothing to show their affiliation with the school, you will need to approach each conversation thoughtfully and neutrally. By using these tips, you can start to build a healthy co-parenting relationship with your ex that centers the needs and happiness of your children.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.