It’s hard to be amiable with an ex-spouse – especially when the very nature of divorce is so contentious. But if both of you plan to have an active role in your kid’s lives – or co-parent – it’s in the best interest of your children for you to set aside your differences and work together.
Research has shown that the quality of the relationship between you and your ex can have a strong influence on the mental and emotional well-being of a child, as well as how likely they are to develop depression or anxiety later on. But getting along with an ex-partner is usually easier said than done. How do you manage successful co-parenting when your relationship with your ex is riddled with old conflicts?
Don’t: lead with your emotions
When a divorce becomes final, it doesn’t mean all of your issues with your ex disappear overnight. You may still have lingering feelings of resentment, anger or hurt that will take time to heal. The important thing is to not let these emotions dictate your actions and words around your children.
If you do need to vent, a friend or mental health professional are great resources for airing your grievances and negative feelings. When bitter emotions do take hold, try to think about your children and remember you are keeping the peace for their sake.
Don’t: make your kids the middleman
No one wants to put their kids in a position where they must choose the side of one of their parents. But, when they have to go back and forth between you and your ex, it can be tempting to use them as messengers or paint your ex in a negative light.
It’s best to take the high road and not put your kids in the middle of your relationship issues or try to turn them against their ex. Your children are entitled to a healthy relationship with both of their parents, and it’s critical to remind them that they have no role in your relationship problems.
Do: communicate purposefully
Establishing good communication practices with your ex will make things easier for you both in the long term. When you have to talk to your ex, you’ll want to try to keep the conversation focused around your children and their needs.
Try not to make demands or overreact if your ex pushes your buttons. The key is to keep communications business-like, neutral and respectful with your ex so that you can successfully work together as you raise your children.
Do: co-parent as a team
Though you’re no longer living with your ex, you should try to agree on the same set of expectations for your children no matter whose house they are at. If possible, try to keep similar schedules at both homes along with rules and disciplinary actions.
Consistency and teamwork are important for kids that have to bounce back and forth between two homes. For example, if your child breaks the rules in one parent’s house and loses privileges, those same privileges should be taken away at the other parent’s house, too.
Co-parenting with an ex isn’t always easy. But with a little effort, you can ensure your children stay out of your conflicts and maintain healthy relationships with both of you.