Although there is a 40% lower divorce rate in couples with kids compared to those without, it still happens and divorce can be hard on kids. There is a sense of change and upheaval that many children struggle with. As a parent, trying to minimize the impact of your divorce on your family is a huge responsibility. Co-parenting with your ex-spouse is something that can be a trying experience, but the reward of successfully raising your kids is worth any amount of challenge. Here are some tips to help you work on successfully co-parenting with your ex.
1. You Are Co-Parents, Not Exes
If you start to think of your relationship with your ex as a relationship with your co-parent, you can start to separate the past personal grievances you have against them from the future you will have working together to raise your children. The technical definition of a divorce is a dissolution of a marriage, but that doesn’t mean that it is the dissolution of your identity as parents. Though you may have many feelings of anger, hurt, and sadness regarding your divorce, it is important to put those aside when it comes to your children. Remember that they are the reason you are acting civilly and it may make it easier to cope.
2. Be Ready to Compromise
You and your co-parent will not always see eye to eye on every issue. It is extremely important that you work together though to find a compromise you can both work with. Compromise does not come easily to many people, and the reality of having to give things up in order to get things in return can be difficult for many people, especially when it comes to something as important as parenting.
3. Consistency is Key
With divorce there are many changes. The kids will be moving, establishing new routines, and overall getting used to a new normal. Try to make the transition as easy as possible when you can. For example, if you are selling your home, use a real estate agent. Only 11% of those who try to sell their house on their own actually accomplish the feat and trying to do it yourself could stretch out the moving process and make things more difficult on your children.
If you had certain family traditions, try to keep them up as much as you possibly can. The less disruption to your children’s normal lives, the less of an adjustment the transition from them having married parents to divorced co-parents. There will still be changes no matter what, but it is key to try to keep things the same wherever possible.
4. Don’t Overshare With Your Kids
Your children are not your therapists. They do not need to know everything about your divorce. Do not trash talk your ex in front of your kids, and do not tell them the nitty-gritty details of your divorce. They don’t need to know anything about finances, court proceedings, or the depth of your emotions. It is alright to tell them if you feel sad or angry, but expressing these emotions strongly in front of your children could be damaging to them emotionally. Remember that you are the parent, and your children should not be comforting you.
5. Be Respectful of Your Co-Parent and Keep it Civil
Following up on the last tip, it is important to show your kids that you respect their other parent. No matter what issues you have with your co-parent, you should not involve your children. You need to show that you and your co-parent have a sense of respect for one another and set a good example by showing that even if you do not get along with someone, you can still work together.
6. Do Not Use Children as Messengers
This should be a given, but you need to be able to effectively communicate with your co-parent without using your children as a form of pass interference. Don’t send messages through your children to your co-parent past a greeting. Any serious discussion should be had through a pre-established communication avenue. If you’re having a discussion that has the potential to get emotional, try using a form like texting or emailing so you have time to think out your responses instead of blurting out something over the phone or face to face that you don’t mean.
7. Acknowledge Your Childrens’ Feelings
Your children are going to be dealing with some of the most complex feelings of their young lives as you start to transition into your new roles as divorced co-parents. Make sure that your children know you are there for them and that you love them. Reassure them that their other parent loves them as well–it is key to making sure that the emotional well-being of your children is not negatively impacted in the long-term.
8. Don’t Try to be the “Cool Parent”
No matter how tempting it is, don’t make every time you see your kids a consequence-free time filled with ice cream and staying up late. The lack of boundaries and routine that this kind of parenting establishes will not work well in the long term, and it will cause a rift in any movement towards easy co-parenting. Think about it this way: if your co-parent did all of the fun things with the kids and you were stuck with all of the more responsible sides of parenting, would you be happy?
9. Quality Over Quantity
If you are upset about missing out on time with your kids, that is very understandable. It is easy to feel like you’re going to miss something important, but realistically your children need time with both parents to have an emotionally healthy basis for their future. Acknowledge your feelings of grief and loneliness when you are not with your children, but don’t let those feelings consume you.
When you are with your kids, you can devote as much time as possible to making memories and habits that they will be able to carry with them for their whole lives. Just because they spend weekends with your co-parent does not mean that they think you love them less.
10. Remember Divorce is a Process, Not a Singular Event
Divorce is not a single event that happens one day and then is over. There are stages of a divorce, stages of learning to co-parenting, and stages of moving on with your lives. Your feelings, your co-parent’s feelings, and your children’s feelings will all change with time. It is important to acknowledge that the ebb and flow of emotion is normal and natural when there is so much change.
Co-parenting will not always be easy, but remember that you are doing this for your children. Being able to be there for your children as your family goes through these big changes is going to be a challenge, but if you try your best and keep love and compromise at the forefront of everything you do, you will do a great job.