It shouldn’t be so hard. You and your ex have shared many happy experiences together, and you would think it would be easy to find your way back to cooperating when it comes to the kids, but divorce has a way of shattering much of what was positive in a relationship. But there’s good news, too. When a divorced couple makes a sincere effort to share parenting, not only is it good for the kids, it can eventually heal a lot of the pain of the divorce.
Unfortunately, initially rebuilding that trust takes work. Successful co-parenting requires an open dialogue and a willingness to compromise, and these are hard to attain when both parties feel hurt and angry. One good solution is to start slowly. Parents can share information via text or Internet if conversations tend to get tense. If it’s really difficult for the parents to see each other, the children can be dropped off and picked up at a neutral location, such as a relative’s house.
Both households should agree on ground rules. It’s actually reassuring for kids to have the same schedule at both households. Children have always been masters at playing their parents against each other, and children of divorce can become really good at this game. Don’t let the kids get away with things that your ex wouldn’t permit in order to buy your kids favor—kids will feel more secure with real boundaries and consistency. Don’t try to out-buy the other parent or provide more exotic experiences.
Children shouldn’t be used to relay information, and they shouldn’t be confidants. For the most part, the less they know about the problems between their parents, the better.
Avoid jumping to conclusions based on things the kids say. If something about the co-parenting arrangement is troubling you, find a way to discuss it calmly with your ex. If things really seem to be getting off course, you and your ex may consider going to a family counselor.
It may not seem possible immediately after a divorce, but five years down the road you and your ex may be surprised to realize you’ve actually become friends again. The effort you put into co-parenting will benefit everyone, including you and your ex. Obviously, the most significant beneficiary will be your kids – and it’s important to do absolutely everything in your power to make sure they grow up in the healthiest possible environment.
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