If you have children, one of the most difficult parts of divorce is navigating the new “normal.” Learning how to navigate the challenges of single-parenthood, wrestling with new and unexpected emotions, and stepping into a role you are unfamiliar with can be daunting. If ignored, these new emotions can seep into the way you communicate with your ex-spouse, causing a rift and hurting your children.
Whether you like it or not, having children with someone connects you to that person for quite some time. Creating and maintaining a healthy co-parenting relationship with them can benefit you both in the long run. Here are some pointers on maintaining a healthy co-parenting relationship with your ex-spouse.
When you are co-parenting, communicating with a plan in place will benefit both of you. One way you can communicate with a plan is by using co-parenting apps. Leveraging technology for your benefit can be a huge benefit when it comes to co-parenting. Not only that, but it also helps encourage consistent communication, which is necessary in any co-parenting relationship. One of the biggest benefits of communicating through a co-parenting app is automatic documentation. Unlike text messages that can be deleted, communications in a co-parenting app are backed up and built into the system, preventing one parent from claiming they “did not see” an email or text about an activity or appointment.
Your kids should not be your primary method of communication with your co-parent. Communicating via your children can hurt not only your relationship with them, but also damage you and your co-parent’s relationship. If you have ever played the game “telephone,” you know that communications can be misinterpreted the more channels they go through; there is no exception for divorced parents.
Compromising is not easy, but you might have to do it on the little things. Flexibility with things like changes in schedule, vacations, or special occasions will help keep tension at bay and will benefit your children. If the other parent has a birthday or family event that falls on one of your days, getting back at them by not allowing the children to attend will just cause more problems and will hurt your children. This is not to say you should be a push-over; sticking to boundaries and to your custody agreement is just as important as flexibility. However, there are certain situations where leniency is more effective than being strict.
No matter what your relationship is with your ex, your kids should always be the focus. No matter how hurt you are or how angry or frustrated you get, your kids are innocent in all of this and should not be used as leverage or weapons in a battle to get back at your co-parent.
Your co-parent is in the exact same situation as you. Depending on what type of custody agreement you have, they might be making certain decisions that affect your children, so it is important to keep in mind that what they are telling you or asking you is just as important as what you are telling them or asking them. Having a mutual respect for each other, listening, and communicating with each other will get you on the same page and allow for productive dialogue that benefit your whole family.
As cliché as it sounds, no one is perfect. Co-parenting can be messy. For newly divorced parents, the learning curve of single parenting is not a linear process and requires a lot of flexibility and understanding. Allow yourself room to make mistakes. Be kind to yourself.
For newly divorced parents who have never experienced co-parenting before, the learning curve can be a challenge. There is no “right” way to do it; what works for one family might not work for another, but that does not mean it is wrong or ineffective. Take time to try new tactics and methods until you get in a rhythm that works for you, your children, and your co-parent.
If you are struggling to create healthy boundaries or just want to create healthy habits in your family, consider seeking counseling services. In our latest webinar, Jenni and Tracy sat down with Robbi Anne Strauss, a licensed professional counselor at Atlanta Parenting Therapy to discuss how counseling can benefit parents who are in a co-parenting situation. To watch the webinar, click here!
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