Co-Parenting Can Work In Divorce—Even When One Parent Is Difficult
Even for divorced couples who have a fairly decent relationship, co parenting can bring tough times. For couples who struggle to tolerate one another, the thought is absolutely overwhelming! But know this: you can make things work, regardless of your feelings toward your ex or your coparent’s issues. Here’s how.
1- Prioritize the kids: Every single decision that impacts your kids has got to be focused on providing the best outcomes for them, whether your ex feels the same way about that goal or not. That means you may have to bite your tongue when you’d like to make a cutting or cynical remark, and you have to be prepared to give your ex a few breaks they may not really deserve every now and then. It may prick your sense of pride, but when you think about the benefits to your children, it’ll be worth every bit of effort.
2- Listen to your kids and hear them: There may be times that they deeply miss their old life, when their other parent was readily at hand. Acknowledge that the divorce has been difficult for them, and their feelings are legitimate. While it’s not your job to make everything better for them—it is your job to let them experience their feelings and know they are supported and loved through good times and bad. Listening doesn’t mean solving. It just means listening.
3- Look at your ex through your children’s eyes: You may view your ex as a moron–but who do your kids see? Is it a great football coach, a fun sidekick on afternoons after school, or in some other way an inspirational adult who loves them? Allow your kids that view, that and work to see it as well. Simply because your ex was a less-than- ideal partner doesn’t mean that they’re a horrible parent, too. Give everyone a break—including yourself– and find the positive parenting that your ex provides. And it wouldn’t hurt to share a compliment about it every once in a while!
4- Let your ex run their own house: So you never let the kids eat fast food and your ex does. Maybe you put the kids to bed at 9:00, but it’s 9:30 in the other house. Sure, these things feel all important to you, but please understand that kids can live under two different sets of rules and can turn out to be perfectly wonderful down the road, in spite of cheeseburgers and late nights now and then. Unless there’s something outrageously unwholesome going on, refrain from picking a fight over every little thing that goes on in the other house. Chill out!
5- Take responsibility when you fall short: You don’t have to do it all just right, but you do have to own up to your mistakes. If at some point you let a withering remark about your ex slip out, avoid justifying or rationalizing it with your kids. Acknowledge that you made a mistake and do everything possible to encourage a healthy relationship with their other parent.
6- Encourage relationships your kids have with your spouse’s new significant other: One of these days your ex may want to introduce the kids to someone special. Your immediate reaction may be to resist supporting that. But why? Is it because it’s bad for the kids, or because you’re irked that someone new will have a chance to impact your children’s lives? Instead of making it an issue, try celebrating the opportunity for more love in their lives. Naturally, protect them from precarious encounters—but make sure you’re being honest with yourself about your actions.
Divorce is never easy, but at The Law Office of Hasson D. Barnes, our dedicated Baltimore family attorneys are always there to support the best possible outcomes. Contact us in our Baltimore office today for a confidential consultation.