Although just the thought of co-parenting with your ex seems impossible at times, this is the only option you have! No relationship with any of the ex’s in the world is easy but there have been studies that show that children with parents who cannot successfully co-parent are more likely to end up with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
Your parenting job at this point is to put the hurt of the past behind for your children’s sake, to start over with your ex in a new role as co-parents and not as the separated/divorced parents that you actually are.
I know this may be hard, but just think about the future of your children and not the here and now hurt that lingers from your past relationship.
You must put your differences aside with your ex, I cannot stress this enough. It is not for your children to see, participate in, or even be aware of. That is for the adults, keep it that way!
Now there are exceptions to all of this—if your ex is a true narcissist, or it was an abusive relationship, these tactics may not work, and you may need to work with a Psychiatrist or legal assistance.
Disclaimer: I am not a Psychiatrist or a lawyer, these are simply processes that worked for me, or options that were realized through research.
How to successfully co-parent:
Get the visitation arrangements put into stone. Set a schedule, and stick with it for both of your sakes. If you need to change visitation occasionally be respectful and ask the other co-parent if they can help with your needs that day. NEVER demand anything! The schedule will help keep everyone’s stress level down, and also provide the structure that the child(ren) need.
Make sure that the rules and rewards are the same at both homes: Children do appreciate consistency and thrive when there are rules and function in their lives. Remember that even if the parents are not getting along, children really do want their parents together. If you cannot be, than at least give the a consistent home life.
Be kind to your ex when the children are around—I have outlined this in my post entitled “the rules to keeping it together.” The children need to see their parents getting along at least on the outside appearances this helps the children feel secure. This helps them feel that their parents are working together to raise them, and not battling against each other. Remember they do not need to be pawns in this situation, and your goal should be to raise well rounded adults not damaged children.
Being cooperative with your ex shows the children a good example of what it is like to be a healthy adult.
Sharing exchanges of affection when possible: Please remember, that Olivia’s dad and I did not always get along, but we certainly do now. We hug and laugh together now. We can have peaceful conversations on the phone, but if we have to have a heated conversation, I reserve those for times when little ears are not around.
Respect the wishes of the other parent
Olivia’s father and I have different beliefs on things such as ear piercings, clothes that she may be interested in wearing, an appropriate age for dating, and I am sure other things along the way. Olivia’s at an age now that there are bigger decisions that have actual consequences and because her father lives many States away I try to include him in as many decisions as possible. Recently, Olivia was given a decision by her father that he did not want her getting her ears pierced a third time until she was 15. Well, she wanted to get her ears pierced again for the third time because my boyfriends daughter was, and I told her no because her fathers wishes were that she wait until she is 15. We did however, call and speak to him about it because he had an opinion about the situation and I was not going to disrespect him. We are still her parents, and by making joint decisions she is aware that we are a united front, we have alleviated any of playing one parent against another one. Truth bomb: this also allows you to be off the hook if both of you agree against something, that you are both on the same page. Than it is not just you that is telling them “no.” Not saying put the blame on the other parent, but if you both agree she/he is too young to date, then you both are equally responsible for their rage.
Say nice things about your ex:
Even if it is like razor blades coming out of your mouth, say something positive about your ex when the children are around. Something like, “your dad/mom is a really good cook” or “your mom/dad was so excited when we found out we were pregnant with you.” Children love the story of your pregnancy and the beginning of your life long journey together. Olivia loved it when I would tell her about the first time I held her, or the first words, or how she use to “gonk” me in the head with her forehead, or how her daddy use to rub my belly when she was dancing around at the end my pregnancy.
Communicate with your ex:
Your child(ren) will hear things at your ex’s house that may be misconstrued or misunderstood. Remember that they are children always try to give your ex the benefit of the doubt, if your ex has never done drugs in your presence and the child comes home and says something about drugs. BE cautious, however, also know that small ears do not always understand sarcasm or jokes. Always check on the child’s well being, but again, keep this private and away from the child otherwise they may feel they did something wrong by telling you.
I hope that these points help out in the process of co-parenting. Please remember that I am not a Psychiatrist and there may be many other options as well. Do what works best for your situation, however, some of these options may be helpful as you move through this process of co-parenting to success for your children.
Much love & respect,