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When you share custody of a child after a divorce, you’ll have to maintain some sort of a relationship with your ex-spouse. Some people maintain the bare minimum required for coordinating visits, while others must engage in more involved interaction to co-manage medications, health, and social obligations. While many couples manage to pull it off peacefully, many more have a hard time.

In any case, having a poor or contentious relationship with your former spouse will inevitably make this even more difficult. Here are some tips for navigating communication and co-parenting with an ex who makes things unpleasant:

  • Be mindful about how you communicate and what you say. If you have a concern to raise, try to word it as an “I” statement rather than a direct attack.
  • You don’t have to like their new partner, but you should show basic courtesy and respect. Never badmouth your ex’s new spouse or partner in front of your children. In most cases, it will eventually get back to your ex.
  • Find ways to compromise. If you’re making constant requests but turning down your ex’s needs, there’s bound to be animosity. If you feel your needs aren’t getting respected, it might be time to find a mediator.
  • Don’t focus on the little things. Keep your eyes set on your own goals and long-term ambitions. The more you ruminate on minor annoyances, the bigger the problems will seem.
  • Find outside support where you can vent or confide. Whether it’s a close friend, a relative, or a therapist, it’s helpful to have someone else to share your issues with so you can gain new perspective and feel like you have an ally.

Although it can be quite difficult to practice self-control with a difficult ex, remember that it’s for the benefit of your child. Kids will pick up on the tension, but the less they’re exposed to it, the healthier the outcome will be for them.

Make sure to set your own boundaries. If an ex attempts to break the terms of custody, speak with your lawyer about your options.