These simple tips will show you how to have a good co-parenting relationship with your ex. So your kids don’t get caught in the middle, and you can move on with your life.
How do you have a good co-parenting relationship?
Without a doubt, that hardest part of splitting up with your partner is not the division of assets, but figuring out how you are going to raise your children together. You work out custody and possibly child support, but often the co-parenting aspect isn’t even a thought… until it HAS to be.
Divorce is hard. Breaking up is tough. But those events eventually fade away. If you have kids with someone, you are facing YEARS of trying to co-parent in an effective way. A way that works for you, your ex, and especially your kids.
My daughter was 6 weeks old when I split from her Dad. And while we tried once or twice to make it work, we ultimately got divorced before her first birthday. Even though it was the best choice for my daughter and me, I also knew that I had another 17 years ahead of me dealing with her dad.
So even though the divorce is finalized, you will still have your ex in your life for a long time. Whether you like it or not, it’s still a relationship that needs work. Just in a different way.
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Successful Co-Parenting Strategies
Like most other relationships, co-parenting requires work. It can also be tough. And there may be several times you want to scream and pull your hair out. But there are ways to make your new co-parenting life a lot easier.
Tip – Get Over your Past Issues
The majority of relationships end because someone did something wrong, or something bad happened. Getting over that isn’t easy. It’s even harder when you still have to communicate and physically see your ex all the time.
Sometimes you may need to talk to a counselor or read some self-help books. No matter what they put you through, you have to put that aside. Start looking at them simply as your child’s father (or mother), and NOT as your ex.
Easier said than done… trust me, I understand! But once you learn how to separate the two, your ex will become just another person you know. They don’t need to be someone you like, just someone you know.
Tip #1 – Treat your ex like a co-worker
In an effort to give up the emotional attachment to your split, a general rule of thumb is to treat your ex like a co-worker. Be professional. Don’t involve them in your personal life. Don’t be inappropriate around them. Limit personal interactions as much as possible.
When you are at work, you mostly discuss work-related topics only to your coworkers. The same goes for your ex. It should only ever involve the child. If it doesn’t involve the child, it needs to be left at home.
Tip #2 – Leave other people out of it
A lot of us need the support of friends and family to get us through the tough time of a breakup. And while most friends and family can be really helpful, it’s important to keep one thing in mind. They only ever have YOUR best interest in mind.
And very similar, your Ex’s friends and family will only ever have THEIR best interest in mind. So they might be a great shoulder to cry on, but not the best at giving advice.
When you both only listen to people who have your best interest in mind, you are always going to get conflicting advice. Which means you and your ex will butt heads more than ever. So try to keep other people out of it, unless it’s a professional who knows both sides of the story.
Tip #3 – learn to give up control
This can often be the hardest part of co-parenting. You went from being in control of every aspect of your kid’s life. What they eat, what rules they follow, even what friends they hang out with. All of a sudden, they have a whole different life at the other parent’s house.
Most parents are getting 50/50 custody these days so half of a kids life is spent NOT with you. That can be hard to handle at first. The other parent may set different rules, serve different foods for dinner, and have your kid hang out with people you don’t know.
And you HAVE To find a way to be OK with that. Even if you don’t agree with it, you ultimately have to let go of the control. Learn to trust that the other parent isn’t going to totally mess up your child.
Keep Reading: How to Be a Good Mom While Going Through a Divorce
Setting Co-Parenting Boundaries
Some boundaries are extremely obvious. Don’t bad mouth your Ex in front of the child, and don’t use the children as a way to correspond between the two of you. Duh. But there are several other co-parenting boundaries to set that will make your life a LOT easier.
Tip #4 – Don’t get involved in your Ex’s personal life
Obvious. But also really hard to do. Your ex might start dating a hundred people a month, and even introduce your kids to them. You will want to get involved and tell them it’s not appropriate. But you can’t.
It’s part of learning to give up control. You have to trust that your Ex will care for your child. And maybe they won’t do everything you approve of, especially with their new personal life, but you can not get involved. Period.
By trying to control what your Ex does with the kids, just makes you look jealous and controlling.
So don’t start hating on the new girl, and don’t try to tell your Ex when YOU think it’s OK for her to meet the kids. That’s not your decision. Stay out of your Ex’s personal life so that they can stay out of yours.
Tip #5 – Be Consistent
Kids thrive on consistency. It’s why we set bedtimes and keep the same schedule with meals and naps and baths. And even as they get older, school and sports and nighttime routines make kids feel safe and secure.
All of a sudden, their life is flipped around when their parents split up. It doesn’t take a genius to realize how hard this can be on kids. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that keeping a consistent schedule is an absolute MUST when trying to co-parent.
So whether its set by the courts or decided between the two of you, try to set a schedule that works for EVERYONE and stick to it. Even if Dad starts dating someone new, or Mom moves 5 times in a year.
Keep the kid’s schedule consistent! (It also leads to a lot less fighting between the adults when a schedule is set and everyone sticks to it)
Tip #6 – Don’t answer every text or phone call
If things start to get heated, STOP RESPONDING. Not only is it super easy to let emotions get out of control through phone calls or text messages, but it’s also an easy way for your Ex to keep you responding to them. Just like with kids…even bad attention is still attention.
Keep most of your communication to emails. Emails are more thought out and can be kept as a record in case someone disagrees about something in the future. They can also be kept as a record to be used in court. Which means everyone is usually on their best behavior in them.
Tip # 7 – Never Withhold Contact From the child
If the other parent isn’t paying child support, or not showing up on time for their visitation, or not allowing the child to contact you when they have them… don’t withhold contact!
It’ll seem super unfair. But when you keep in mind what’s best for the kids, you know deep down that you have to allow their basic needs to be met, and that includes being able to talk to the other parent when they need to.
You might hear it over time, that kids will understand one day what you did for them. It may not seem like it for many years, and it may be hard to always be the “good guy”, but trust me when I tell you… it WILL pay off one day. One day your kids will know who did what for them, and who didn’t. Don’t ever give them a reason to think badly of you.
Tip #8 – Always keep your Ex updated
I know exactly what you are thinking. “It’s not my job to keep them updated! They should find out that information on their own. I have to!” Just keep in mind, you are not doing it to make your ex’s life easier. You are doing it to so your Ex shows up and stays involved. So your kid can see both parents still as an active part of their lives.
And like everything else, they will be able to figure out who did what. And they will be grateful for everything you did, fair or not. So it might burn inside to help your ex out when they don’t deserve it. But it’ll feel so dang good when your kids realize what you did for THEM.
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