Divorces generally happen when couples can no longer work together to maintain their marriage, so it’s understandable that divorced couples often have difficulty working together to raise their children. But your children need both of their parents, so it’s important to find a way to work together at least as much as you need to in order to effectively co-parent your children. Sometimes it can be hard to see the path toward cooperative parenting while you’re still feeling anger, resentment, and loss from your divorce. Take a look at some tips that can help you find a way to work together with your ex for the sake of raising your child.
Respect Your Ex (At Least in Front of the Kids)
Nobody wants their children to hear bad things about them. You don’t want that, and your ex doesn’t either. One of the first and most important tips for being able to work together with your ex is to always speak respectfully of your ex in front of your kids. That can be difficult, but you should do it anyway. Even if your ex is behind on child support, or if your ex is trying to limit your time with your kids, or you disagree with your ex’s parenting practices. Even if your ex doesn’t always give you the same courtesy.
When tensions between you and your ex are running high, simply taking care to not speak badly of them in front of your kids can be a show of good faith. It’s proof that no matter what your disagreements are, you’re not trying to put a wedge between your children and your ex. Even more importantly, it’s what’s best for your kids. Children know that they’re a product of both you and your ex, and if you badmouth your ex, your child can feel that you’re angry with them as well. They may worry that you’ll no longer love them if they remind you of your ex. Save your negative thoughts about your ex for sympathetic friends or relatives. Talk about them in therapy. But keep them away from your kids.
Be Realistic About Custody and Parenting Time
Divorces are about the couple, but custody is supposed to be about the kids. But all too often, parents mix up their feelings about their marriage and divorce with their custody arrangements. But think realistically about what you can and can’t handle, what your schedule allows, and what your kids actually need while you’re trying to work out custody arrangements.
Assuming that both parents are fit parents, you should be aiming for some sort of joint custody arrangement. Your kids need time with both of you. Don’t go all out trying to limit your child’s time with their other parent if you’re angry with them. Be practical. If you’re the custodial parent and you work three nights a week, but your ex only works days, why not arrange for the noncustodial parent to have parenting time while you’re working instead of hiring a babysitter and limiting the noncustodial parent to weekend visits? If you’re the noncustodial parent and you know that you often work late on Friday nights, don’t insist that your weekend visits start on Friday nights anyway when you know that you’ll have to show up late or hire a babysitter for those nights anyway – just start your visitation time on Saturday mornings. Don’t fight for additional parenting time that you won’t use just to hurt your ex – you’ll wind up hurting your kids as well.
Be Reasonably Flexible
One of the best things about establishing custody and getting a parenting plan approved by the family court is that it should head off most arguments about who gets the kids when. You just follow the plan. As a general rule, your best bet is to stick to the plan. But life doesn’t always stick to a pre-approved plan, and it’s worth making a reasonable effort to accommodate the other parent when things don’t go according to plan.
For example, if your ex’s parents who live in another state come to visit, and your ex asks for extra parenting time that week so that they and their parents can visit with your child, it’s worth trying to accommodate that. If your ex is up for a big promotion at work but they need to attend a conference out of town on their weekend with the kids, it probably wouldn’t hurt to switch weekends with them. If your ex is dealing with a personal crisis, like a serious illness or the death of a parent, you can try to accommodate them by taking more time with the kids or giving up some of your time, depending on what they need. This doesn’t mean that you need to acquiesce to any change or demand that your ex has, but you can be compassionate and understanding about serious life events, unavoidable time conflicts, and special occasions, and make an effort to work with your ex to accommodate those situations as they arise.
Find a Way to Communicate
It’s understandable if you don’t want to have long conversations with your ex, and it’s usually better to avoid extended interactions if the two of you usually just end up arguing when you try to speak in person or on the phone. But it’s difficult to raise children together without some kind of communication, so make an effort to find a way to communicate that works for both of you.
Many divorced couples find that texting or email is a good solution. With these methods, you don’t have to reply right away, so you can compose your thoughts and come up with a calm reply. You can also save this kind of correspondence, so if the legal disputes over custody are ongoing, they can be presented as evidence in court if necessary. This gives everyone involved an incentive to be on their best behavior.
Co-parenting may never be a walk in the park, but as time moves on and the divorce is further in the past, you may find that your feelings of anger, hurt, and resentment fade as well, making it easier to work together. Keep in mind that while the marriage may not have lasted, you’ll both be parents to your children for the rest of their lives, so any effort you put into maintaining a cooperative relationship will pay off in the long run.