It's that time of year again where many of us are considering how we might be better or do better in the new year with New Year's resolutions. If parenting with your ex has been a significant struggle in your life, I want to challenge you to resolve to be a better co-parent this year. If you don't want to do it for yourself, do it for your children.
Divorce not only takes a toll on the divorcing couple, but it also affects the rest of the family. This is especially evident if you have young children. Even though it's tough to hide the negative feelings that surface during a divorce, it's extremely important that you work at managing those feelings constructively if you don't want them to affect the kids.
Avoid the mistake of believing that your adult problems are too complicated for your children to understand. Although young children may not understand words like "irreconcilable differences," they're very intuitive and impressionable. Even babies can tell when their parents are at war; the tension in the air has a way of being transferred from one body to the other.
If you're struggling to get along with your ex after your divorce, consider implementing the following strategies.
Whether you set guidelines for conversations or you come up with hard rules you both need to follow while you’re communicating, it’s important to make sure you have a strategy for communication. Going into things blindly without any type of strategy can make co-parenting one of the most difficult things you can do. Instead of trying to just “wing it” or talk about things as they come up, have a clear idea of what you want to talk about!
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To minimize the negative impact on your kids, avoid arguing in front of them. You can have differences, but keep them between you. When the children are within earshot, keep in mind the effect your words can have on them. Take a deep breath, if necessary, to give you time to plan wisely what you're going to say.
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This may mean that the two of you need to schedule a time to have a conversation when the children are not around.
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The last thing you want is for your children to develop negative feelings towards one of their parents. Instead of piling on the criticisms in front of the kids, you can mention that:
I know that the possibility of sharing family time is not going to be a reality in all families. However, if you can do it, it will mean a tremendous amount to your children. While nobody expects you to hold hands or even drive in the same car for that matter, putting in the effort to get along on special occasions can help your kids continue to have a sense of family.
When your children notice that both of you are working together to raise them, they'll feel that sense of togetherness. Although you're divorced, your kids will understand that both parents play a part in raising them, and both parents should be respected.
For example, you can both attend school meetings together to learn about your child's progress.
In an ideal world, divorced parents would always put the interests of their children at the forefront of their minds. However, the emotional turmoil you're experiencing can be painful. Remember that many of us find strength in being a parent and you may, too.
Once you recognize and acknowledge your most significant role as a parent, you'll find it easier to co-parent without allowing it to have undue adverse effects on your children. Maintain focus on your kids, and all of you may come out of this stronger people.
If you need support getting on the same page as your ex, consider attending mediation together. Mediation is a great way to establish a better communication strategy to limit problems going forward. Contact me for more information.