Co-parenting after a split is rarely easy, especially if you have a contentious relationship with your ex-partner. You may be concerned about your ex’s parenting abilities, stressed about child support or other financial issues, feel worn down by conflict, or think you’ll never be able to overcome all the resentments in your relationship. But co-parenting amicably with your ex can give your children the stability, security, and close relationships with both parents they need. For the sake of your kids’ well-being, it is possible for you to overcome co-parenting challenges and develop a cordial working relationship with your ex. Over the next few days, we'll post several tips to help you can remain calm, stay consistent, and resolve conflicts to make joint custody work and enable your kids to thrive.
Tip 1: Set hurt and anger aside
Successful co-parenting means that your own emotions—any anger, resentment, or hurt—must take a back seat to the needs of your children. Admittedly, setting aside such strong feelings may be the hardest part of learning to work cooperatively with your ex, but it’s also perhaps the most vital. Co-parenting is not about your feelings, or those of your ex-spouse, but rather about your child’s happiness, stability, and future well-being.
Separating feelings from behavior
It’s okay to be hurt and angry, but your feelings don’t have to dictate your behavior. Instead, let what’s best for your kids—you working cooperatively with the other parent—motivate your actions.
Get your feelings out somewhere else. Never vent to your child. Friends, therapists, or even a loving pet can all make good listeners when you need to get negative feelings off your chest. Exercise can also be a healthy outlet for letting off steam.
Stay kid-focused. If you feel angry or resentful, try to remember why you need to act with purpose and grace: your child’s best interests are at stake. If your anger feels overwhelming, looking at a photograph of your child may help you calm down.
If you're having difficulty managing your feelings...
HelpGuide’s free Emotional Intelligence Toolkit can help you manage your emotions, control troublesome thoughts, stay connected to what you feel, and quickly relieve stress.
Don't put your children in the middle
You may never completely lose all of your resentment or bitterness about your break up, but what you can do is compartmentalize those feelings and remind yourself that they are your issues, not your child's. Resolve to keep your issues with your ex away from your children.
Never use kids as messengers. When you use your children to convey messages to your co-parent, it puts them in the center of your conflict. The goal is to keep your child out of your relationship issues, so call or email your ex directly.
Keep your issues to yourself. Never say negative things about your ex to your children, or make them feel like they have to choose. Your child has a right to a relationship with their other parent that is free of your influence.
If you need help working with your co-parent, call us about mediation or representation.