When marriages break down, there is usually some resentment and anger. It’s natural. Sometimes, however, the divorcing spouses go through a long period of rage and blame. For exes with children, that can lead to difficulty co-parenting.
Assuming that neither spouse is guilty of child abuse or neglect, however, you are going to have to work together on raising your children. You’ll need to be civil to each other at countless events involving your kids, ranging from parent night at school to weddings and grandchildren.
How can you build a productive co-parenting relationship when you weren’t able to maintain a positive marriage? It won’t be easy, but there are steps you can take to make it easier.
In an acrimonious relationship, the idea that you are “co-parenting” may be a bit of a stretch. On a day-to-day basis, you may not be doing your parenting together at all. What counts is that you communicate over issues of mutual concern, respect each other’s boundaries and avoid dragging your kids into the middle of the argument.
Focus on your child’s wellbeing
When you’re hurt and angry, it’s normal to want your loved ones on your side. Resist the urge to discuss your ex with your children, even if your ex was in the wrong. Most experts agree that kids do much better when they have a positive, loving relationship with both of their parents. Focus on creating the opportunity for your child to have that.
Embrace different parenting styles
As long as your ex is a safe person for your kids to be around, you’re going to have to accept that they may parent differently than you do. You can’t afford to nitpick at every decision your ex makes; save your energy for important disagreements. Negotiate shared rules, but leave room for differences of opinion. Recognize the possibility that your ex could be a quality, trustworthy parent even if they do things a bit differently than you would.
Model good relationship skills
If you want your kids to thrive as adults, show them how mature adults deal with disagreements. Care passionately but argue civilly. Respect one another’s time. Don’t put your kids in the middle.
Learn to let go of your overprotective emotions
The truth is, you can’t shield your children from hurt and disappointment — and that includes being let down by a parent. What you can do is help them build resilience by teaching them positive problem-solving skills and encouraging them to have a positive relationship with their other parent. You can help them thrive by keeping your hard feelings to yourself and doing your best to cooperate as you build a new family dynamic after divorce.