Co-parenting with an ex is a relationship, and just like any other relationship it takes work, but it is work that is valuable and necessary – because it impacts the thing you both love the most in the world, your child(ren).Unless you’re Britney Spears and decide to marry on a whim in Las Vegas, nobody gets married expecting to get divorced.
I know when I got married I had hoped it would last forever, but people change, values change, mistakes are made, and sometimes divorce happens.
Moving on from divorce or the end of a relationship can be hard, but when there are children involved, it can seem absolutely impossible. There are days that you cannot imagine pulling yourself together, much less being responsible for anybody else. I have been there. I know the swirling emotions surrounding divorce and the mood swings that vary from guilt to relief to anger and back again. It doesn’t matter if you were the one who initiated the end of the relationship or not, your feelings when you find yourself actually broken up, separated, or divorced, may surprise you.
Moving from a dark place to a workable co-parenting partnership with your ex can seem like a daunting task for divorcing parents. I am certainly no expert, but I have learned a few things through research and experience that may help you in your journey:
- As far as the actual end of the marriage, look at the relationship as a whole, own your part of its demise, learn from it and then let it go. Dredging up past mistakes or grievances from your marriage is detrimental for divorcing parents, and does nothing to move you into the next stage of the relationship, which is being a co-parent to your child(ren).
- Divorcing parents – seek therapy and ask for help if you need it. There is NOTHING WRONG with doing so and it shows great strength of character.
- “Love your kids more than you hate your ex” – I am not sure of the origin of this quote but I have heard it several times and each time I am struck by how perfect it is. I never hated my ex, but I can tell you with little uncertainty, he hated me at one time. I think it is a true testament to him that our children would not know that their dad ever hated their mom because he set his feelings for me aside and never stopped being their dad and eventually, my friend as well.
- Divorcing parents, please: Never forget that your child is your child, not your friend. Your child should never be used as a messenger, and should never be spoken to about adult issues including any problems that you are having with their other parent.
- Children want stability and they have an uncanny ability to blame themselves for everything. Be honest about the situation in the sense that you tell your child(ren) that mom and dad are divorcing, but be sure to tell them that it is nothing they did and that things will settle down soon and they will see both parents on a regular basis.
- If you have a shared parenting arrangement, meaning one week with one parent and one week with another, or some kind of shared custody agreement, do your best to have one full set of clothes at each place. It just makes it easier for divorced parents.
- I HIGHLY suggest that divorcing parents use a shared calendar like the one offered through Gmail. I am sure there are others, but I do not know of any off-hand. The calendar allows both my ex and I to enter events that we have scheduled with the boys, or separately and it makes it much easier to figure out who is where, when, which brings me to my next piece of advice.
- Divorcing parents – BE FLEXIBLE. There will more than likely be times when your ex wants to do something with your child(ren) on a week that is not necessarily “their week”. Before you quickly remind them of that fact, think about it. Why are you saying no? Is it out of spite or are you truly outraged that your ex wants to spend time with your child(ren) at a time that has not been “allotted” for them to do so? You may be surprised at your reasoning when you actually think about what is behind it.
- When I asked my ex-husband for hints for this post he told me that the most important thing to remember is that he is always right. One last piece of advice: Knowing when to bite your tongue is an invaluable skill.
To read more about divorcing parents: