7 Tips for Co-Parenting with Your Ex
As attorneys who’ve worked with divorcing and separating families for years, we think this is the hardest part for clients – CO-PARENTING. Now that you are separated or divorced, it is so important to your children that you can find some common ground with their other parent.
We could discuss this topic for days, but we know you don’t have time for that! Today, we are sharing 7 tips for co-parenting with your ex. We hope that these tips will aide you in peaceful collaboration with your ex.
Tip#1: Keep Communication Open
We know that it can be very hard to communicate with your ex- especially if the split was messy. Maybe you need to set some boundaries to make this work for you, but effective communication is absolutely required to co-parent well. You don’t need to talk to your ex about their dating life or help them pick out their outfit in the morning, but we suggest that you make sure to communicate with them about any issue concerning your child- scheduling, illness, school challenges or successes, field trips, or when your child has an argument with her best friend. This also prevents your child from taking advantage of you or your ex and manipulating your lack of communication. An open dialogue ensures that you are both on the same page about your children and that is what’s best for the kids. If you want to co-parent well, you need to communicate with your ex – whether you like it or not.
Tip#2: Let Your Kids Be Kids
Don’t let your negative feelings about your ex show when your children are around. Your emotions should not be what shapes a child’s perspective about their other parent. Don’t use your child as a messenger- talk to your co-parent directly. Don’t use your child as a private investigator to tell you what your ex is doing or who your ex is dating. Don’t use your kid to send child support back and forth. Remember, you must separate the father/mother role from the role of significant other, they may have been a terrible spouse but maybe they have the potential to become a great parent. If not, you will want your child to feel safe enough to talk to you about any issues that arise without worrying about how you will react. Kids are smart enough to figure out who their parents are without constantly hearing negative remarks from one side or the other.
Try to work together with your ex to come up with a consistent routine for the children at both homes. This may include how much time the children spend on an ipad or in front of a television, what time they go to bed, how and when they do their homework, and what age they get their own phones, when they learn to drive, when they are old enough to date, what their curfew is, tattoos, piercings, and more. You may also find it helpful to discuss what role step-parents (or future step-parents) will play in the lives of the children. These discussions can really help establish expectations for each parent before conflict arises but can also be very healthy for children. Children need consistency to grow and to learn responsibility. It’s important for them to see and feel a similar routine while they spend time with each parent. This will help your children to feel safe and secure and to see that, though it looks different now, they still have a family.
Tip#4: Set Boundaries
In addition to setting consistent boundaries for your children, you may find it helpful to set healthy boundaries with your co-parent so that you’re not over involved in each other’s personal lives. The co-parenting relationship is about your children, not an excuse to stay connected with your ex. You do not need to divulge any more information than what you feel helps ensure that your children are doing well. Knowing every time your ex goes on a date or a vacation may trigger emotions that can throw your otherwise successful co-parenting relationship into a tailspin. Set reasonable boundaries.
Tip#5: Set Aside Your & Anger
If you’re reading this, chances are that it’s time to put what happened between you and your ex behind you and to come together for the sake of your children. If you can do this, you will be able to prevent lifelong division because of hate and unresolved anger. For many children, the transition of their nuclear family into two or more separate family units is very traumatic. During this time it is extremely important to put your children and their emotions first. To do this effectively, you will need to set your negative emotions aside.
Tip#6: Remember You’re a Team!
Co-parenting is a collaborative effort, and you are only as strong as your weakest player. So, stay strong and work together. Get apps and tools that will assist you in working together more peacefully and easily. If you need some suggestions on these, let us know. We are always happy to help!
Tip#7: Show Mutual Respect
This is an opportunity for you to lead by example and to show your children that it is important to respect people even if they don’t agree with them or even get along with them. Showing respect for your co-parent will go a long way when something comes up that you disagree about. It is important that you don’t allow your children to disrespect their other parent in front of you and that you don’t show your children that you lack respect for their other parent. In addition to helping your co-parenting be more peaceful, this will help your children to build character and teach them important social skills.
We know first hand that parenting is no easy task. Add to that the unique dynamic that is co-parenting with an ex and you’ve certainly got your work cut out for you. But, this doesn’t have to be as difficult as some parents choose to make it. Keep it simple and when you want to give up just remember why you’re doing this!