When navigating a divorce, the impact on the children is always a concern. However, the challenges increase when you’re co-parenting with a difficult ex-spouse. In this situation, tensions rise, and cooperation seems a far-off dream. Below, we offer some valuable strategies to improve this crucial dynamic.
1. Develop Boundaries
Parents who feel guilty about the divorce are frequently hesitant to provide discipline. They attempt to retain the children’s affection by being a “fun” grow-up instead of a genuine parent. This will only serve to create entitled and undisciplined children. If your ex insists on spoiling them with material offering and permits inappropriate activities, it becomes important for you to be the consistent disciplinarian. Being the “bad guy” won’t be easy, but for your children’s sake, it may be necessary. And the kids will eventually appreciate it. Children need more structure in their lives, not more trips to the zoo.
2. Never Bad-Mouth the Co-Parent
This may not be easy when you see your ex making you look like a bad-witch parent. Your ex is, and will always be, the children’s parent. They do not want to hear you discussing what a terrible person he or she is. Being told their parent is bad is bound to affect them emotionally. Nor should you permit them to speak disrespectfully about your ex. He or she is their parent and deserves to be respected accordingly.
3. Co-Parent as a Team
Okay, your ex is a so-and-so, and you are well rid of him and her. However, you and the impossible ex will be making critical decisions about the children’s lives together. Communication may be strained, difficult, or near impossible. But for their sake, you need to communicate like reasonable adults, with the children’s best interest in mind. Seeing you act as a unit, even while divorced, will make your children feel more secure. Perhaps the best attitude to take is to treat the ex as you would a coworker – polite, efficient, without getting personal.
4. The phone has its purpose when it comes to communication.
But it has its downside, as well. It’s very easy to say something thoughtless and mean. If possible, make texts and emails your primary communication source. Both give you a chance to re-write or simply delete. In addition, an email is proof (if ever needed) that you informed the ex about your children’s school and/or medical situations. An irate phone call has no such advantage.
5. The ex is an ex for a reason.
Things weren’t going well when you were together. Now that you are divorced, don’t expect things to improve (although, without marital tensions, sometimes they actually do). If your ex always spent weekends at the office or golfing, don’t expect him or her to now be a willing and available co-parent each weekend. Don’t expect too much and be flexible enough to step up when he or she does not. The ex is irrelevant now; the kids are everything.
6. When co-parenting with an indifferent or uncooperative ex-spouse, you can become overwhelmed.
Have a support system of friends and family to keep from involving the children in your struggles. It’s okay to vent to friends; it is harmful to do so in front of the kids.
7. Sometimes, a post-divorce situation gets nasty.
Exes can be out for revenge and withhold needed support payments or ignore visitations. When things get out of hand, a court can be your last resort. This can be unpleasant, but it may become necessary.
8. The past is gone – let it be.
Your ex may have been thoughtless and cruel. That is probably the reason for the divorce. If you are going to co-parent successfully, it is imperative that you let go of the past and the pain it invokes. It’s not about him or her and how impossible they can be. It’s about how to make the children feel safe and secure.
Technology Can Be Your Best Ally
Perhaps the most effective co-parenting happens when you and your ex have only limited contact. Thanks to emails, co-parenting apps, etc., both partners can remain 100 percent involved in their children’s lives without an abundance of parental contact. Sharing a parenting app will keep both parents apprised of school functions, medical appointments, school exams, etc. They can also be used as a diary to detail the child’s day and problems. When used properly, neither parent is caught off-guard and always remains informed.
The greatest advantage to technology is that it provides written proof that the ex was indeed made aware of appointments and activities. This eliminates any argument of, “You didn’t tell me!” If needed, these written proofs can be used in court if the ex’s actions are in violation of any court order.
Technology also allows you to delay any instant response. If the ex is acting nasty, technology allows you to take a step back and inhale deeply. It proves you with cooling-off time. This way, you can be the mature parent and ignore any childish shenanigans.
Managing the ins and outs of co-parenting with a difficult ex-spouse can be a challenging task. Yet, overcoming these hurdles is essential for your children’s wellbeing. With effective strategies such as setting firm boundaries, maintaining respect, utilizing technology, and promoting teamwork, you can ensure a more harmonious co-parenting environment. Remember, while you may not be partners anymore, you remain a team in your children’s upbringing.
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