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, then 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 but 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 he brings the floozy who broke up your marriage, smile when you grit your teeth, because she is their step-mother. She may be very loving and kind to the kids. 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.
Jessica was married to a physician who was busy and rarely around for her or the kids. They grew apart and got a divorce.
Tracy married young and had the first of her two babies soon afterward. While she settled down to night feedings and doing the bulk of childcare, Cedric was out around town with his mates. Staying home was not on his radar.
Jenny’s husband Eddie was a big kid himself and full of fun. He’d say, “Don’t let Mum catch us eating all of this candy” or ask the kids, “Do you want to work around the house or go to the park?”
Another woman whose husband’s excessive traveling led to their parting, was surprised that he accomplished it between visitations post-divorce.
These astounded women remark on what fantastic fathers and co-parents these former spouses are.
The doctor reworked his schedule and cleared his weekends for his kids. He is very involved doing science experiments and other enjoyable educational activities.
Cedric still has fun with his buddies, but spends quality time with his youngsters. He enjoys them and is completely focused on them during visitation.
Eddie no longer leaves the parenting only to “Mum” but takes responsibility for them, goes over homework and attends parent/teacher conferences. Other women have echoed this same message about good co-parenting with their exes.
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.
One woman said that one of her closest friends is her ex-husband’s new wife. He married someone just like her, so they get along great.
Author of The Woman’s Holistic Guide to Divorce
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