Co-Parenting with Divorce

Co-parenting can be easier as time marches on and heals wounds. Remember this is all about the children and not about scoring points or being in a popularity contest. Leave emotions and judgments out of interactions with your ex. If he becomes agitated, suggest resuming the discussion when he is calm. Do not let him trigger your hot buttons. Try to be on the same page with basic routines, such as meals and bedtimes. Children are clever and may try to manipulate you both into getting extra privileges. If you have a united front, than this is less problematic and you can both firmly state the common rules.

Be flexible when the other parent’s request is reasonable, such as having the kids a little extra time when his out-of-town relatives are visiting. Children will appreciate your generosity and could feel hurt if they missed a reunion. Do not say “no” out of vindictiveness, only if it is not in the children’s best interest. If you feel that requests are getting out of hand or there is too much switching going on, then perhaps meeting with a mediator or counsellor may be in order. This is a reality check for you both, so that a better plan can be implemented.

Children want both parents to attend school events and important milestones. If you can sit together for these, then great. If not, keep your emotions in check and remain polite, even if from across the auditorium. There will be important functions such as First Communions or Bar Mitzvahs that you both will want to attend. Even if the other parent brings the person who broke up your marriage, smile when you grit your teeth, because he/she is the kids’ step-parent. They may be very loving and kind to your offspring. You do have class and model this dignity to your children.

Of course, the other parent gave the kids half of their DNA, so never say anything mean about him or her. In my case, I find it better to say nothing whatsoever at all.  Do not make children choose sides. If you can have a few friendly words on the doorstep or occasionally invite him in for coffee, the kids will appreciate this.  Some former spouses get together on holidays with their children, for at least part of the day. You may have had an adversarial marital relationship, but that is now behind you. What lies ahead is being on the same team to ensure the children are safe, happy and thriving.

If co-parenting truly is unmanageable, then a mediator can step in to handle all communication between both of you.  Co-parenting is a skill which is learned by trial and error. Give both of you some slack to make some missteps, especially in the beginning. I have talked to and read about former couples who really like their exes’ new partners, and getting together for birthday parties and other events is enjoyable.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine   thedivorcemagazine.co.uk