As a parent, nothing makes you happier than seeing your children happy. That desire for their happiness only increases if you’ve gone through divorce, and your ex probably feels the same. It’s important to use resources and communication skills that help your relationship with your ex be healthy and positive in order to ensure your child’s well being.
Effective co-parenting after divorce is difficult, but not impossible. You are not alone; there are many resources and steps you can take to help you along the way. Let’s explore some important strategies for learning to work through difficult emotions to effectively co-parent.
- Grieve the loss of your marriage: When a divorce is finalized, parents can feel relief and even elation that they are finally past a painful chapter in their lives. However, these emotions can mask deep-seated feelings of loss and grief; after all, you have lost someone you once loved and shared your life with. That’s why it’s important to grieve the end of this enormous chapter of your life; only by acknowledging that it’s over can you hope to truly find emotional closure.
- Treat your relationship with your ex as a business relationship: Every time you speak to or see your ex, a flood of angry emotions can come rushing back. To avoid letting those emotions get the best of you, it’s important to stop viewing your ex as one of your personal relationships, but rather as a business relationship. In business relationships, both parties aspire to make deals that are in the best interests of a shared endeavor. In this case, the endeavor is your children.
- Agree in advance on basic parenting philosophies: Children are healthiest when they have consistency and stability in their lives. That means you and your ex should mutually agree to things like bedtimes and curfews for your kids, what mix of sports and extracurricular activities are appropriate for them, and how you’ll impose discipline. When you can articulate shared parenting philosophies upfront, you’re less likely to have emotional clashes later that disrupt your children’s lives and send them mixed messages about rules and expectations. Agreeing on parenting philosophies also helps prevent your children from pitting or “playing” one parent against the other in an effort to get what they want.
- Focus on modeling positive behavior for your kids: There will be days when you feel tempted to publicly berate and disparage your ex. When your children witness this behavior, however, it’s impossible for them to un-see; in fact, it teaches them that your actions are an acceptable way for adults to interact with one another. Thus, whenever you feel your emotions getting the best of you, remind yourself of the importance of modeling positive behavior for your kids. You should always aspire to love your children more than you dislike your ex.
- Give your ex credit for contributing to your children’s well-being: Though it may happen out of your sight, your ex is still contributing to your children’s development and happiness. Remember that your ex is likely struggling with the same challenges you are. It may be hard, but try to be grateful for their contribution. Your children’s time spent with your ex is just as important as their time spent with you. You both need to know that, at the very least, you support one another as parents.
- Find private avenues for venting your frustrations and anger: You don’t have to pretend your feelings away. Instead, identify private avenues for dealing with your negative emotions. Perhaps you have a trusted friend or group of friends to confide in, or perhaps you could attend divorce support groups. If your relationship with your ex is particularly negative, you may even want to convince your ex to use a professional mediator or therapist to help the two of you work through your issues.
As you embark on your co-parenting journey, remember: you are not alone. You have friends, family, and professionals cheering you on, wishing only the best for you and your child. As you heal from divorce and look for support, we invite you to visit hart-legal.com to access the many services available to you at our California office.