Working with your ex-spouse after a divorce or separation may never be easy, but when there are children involved it is certainly necessary. Unless your family has faced issues such as substance abuse or domestic violence, it is imperative that you work together to create two happy households for your children to grow up in.
Co-parenting is essentially child centered decision making between you and your ex-spouse. Although you may no longer be together, you are still on the same team in terms of raising your children.
One of the main and most important things to help ensure you are co-parenting well with your ex is communication. Ineffective communication can affect relationships even before a divorce occurs. That will not change now because you are divorced or no longer a couple. Thinking about communicating with your ex can seem impossible, but realizing it is what needs to happen for the benefit of your children will make it easier. Separating your feelings from your behavior will help the overall communication process. Cooperating with your ex-spouse to benefit your children should be the motivating factor when it comes to communication.
If a text message, email, or phone call upsets you or makes you angry, take time to cool down before you reply. Replying out of hurt, anger or frustration is likely to turn the conversation ugly and make it harder to communicate in the future. Try to only deal with one issue at a time and take the process day by day. Dealing with one issue or problem at a time will make the overall process of communicating less stressful, and reminding yourself that it is a marathon, not a sprint, will also ensure effective communication in the future. If communication is not something you see being feasible between you and your ex-partner, you could consider seeking communication help from a specialist if needed.
Have a Plan, but Be Flexible
It is extremely important to have a game plan when it comes to co-parenting with your ex-spouse. You and your ex-spouse should sit down and create a detailed plan that sets out daily routines and rules for your children that each parent should try to follow. It is important that you take into consideration that the rules and routines may not be exactly the same at each house, and they are subject to change. For example, your bedtimes, screen times, and food schedule may be very different, but it is important to remember to let it go, unless they are part of your critical core values. Being flexible on things will help the overall process of co-parenting and contribute to your child’s well-being. It is important to revisit the plan as often as needed depending on your children’s ages, their extracurricular activities, etc.
Being flexible with your ex-spouse is also an important aspect to having a plan. Understand that sometimes things do change for both you and your spouse. By giving your spouse the benefit of the doubt when it comes to scheduling, you will be providing a more supportive environment for your children. You may need to switch days every once and a while or be together watching a sporting event if necessary. It is important to try to stick to the schedule, but realize it is okay if someone needs to make a change and it will not put any hardship on you. One day you may need the same flexibility from your ex-partner, and they will be more understanding if they receive the same from you.
Make Exchanges Easier
Exchanging your children back and forth between households can be stressful, not only for you and your ex-spouse, but your children too. It is important to stay positive throughout the process and deliver them on time. Reminding your children, they will be going to the other parent’s house a few days before hand will help them anticipate and accept the change. If you are able too, pack the things your children may need in advance. This will ensure when the day comes for exchange, it will be a quick and easy process. Even better, if you can, keep separate items such as pajamas and toothbrushes at each house. This will give your children a sense of normalcy and make them more comfortable with the transition.
Keep the exchanges short and sweet, and make sure you allow the other parent to say goodbye before you start your time with your children. It is also important to ensure there are no arguments or disagreements in front of your children during drop-offs. If it seems like things may escalate to an argument, finish the drop off and talk privately about it later. Always keep a positive attitude in front of the children.
Find Support from Friends and Family
It is no surprise that co-parenting may not be easy. Tensions and emotions can run high while trying to work with someone you just ended a relationship with no matter how it ended. It is important that you have individuals you can rely on to talk to and confide in when you are going through a hard time. These can be your family, your friends, or even a co-parenting Facebook group. It is also important for both you and your ex-spouse to have a support group that can help you with your children if they need rides or a babysitter. It should be someone that both you and your ex-spouse trust with the children and have a good relationship with them. Finding people who support you is important in everyday life, but it is extremely important when you are going through co-parenting issues and need someone to talk to.
Don’t Bad Mouth Your Co-Parent
It is important that neither parent bad mouth the other parent in front of their children. Regardless of your feelings towards the other, remember that your children are made up of half of you, and half of the other parent. Bad mouthing the other parent may make your child feel like you do not love half of them, even if that is not the case. This will lead to low self-esteem and other issues down the road. It also starts to teach your children to resent the other parent, which is detrimental when children should have relationships with both of their parents to flourish.
If you feel like you do need to vent, wait until you are away from your children and reserve those conversations for adult friends and family.
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At Kirkland & Sommers, Co. LPA., located in Dayton and West Chester, Ohio, divorce and family law is not just something we do…it is all we do! To learn more, go to our website www.KirklandSommers.com. Or please contact us at (937) 223-0697 or (513) 563-3166 to schedule an appointment for an initial consultation.