You never thought you’d be divorced but it seems like a cruel punishment that you have to keep dealing with your ex in a co-parenting arrangement. Part of you might be wishing that your ex would just disappear and leave all the parenting up to you; or maybe you wish that your ex-spouse would step up and do MORE of the parenting! Either way it is not easy sharing the sacred job of raising kids with a person whom you barely see eye to eye with anymore. What can you do to make this hurtful and awkward time as healthy as possible for your kids? First of all, realize that divorce is a process not an event! Just because the divorce papers are signed, sealed and delivered does NOT mean that you or your former spouse are emotionally divorced from each other. The legal divorce and the emotional divorce are two very different things. For example, you may be still be fighting that same old fight any time you are forced to talk about the parent-teacher meetings or the registration fee for summer camp. Instead of figuring out the best schedule for junior, you find yourself telling him the 100 ways he screwed it up or you are reminded about your inability to manage a check book! If this continues to happen know that you need help to extricate yourself from the dysfunctional patterns of the marriage and find a way into a new, healthier co-parenting relationship. Here are some proven guidelines to get that process underway:
Tips for Positive Co-Parenting After Divorce
1. Put boundaries around your conversations. Prior to speaking to your ex have a clear script about what is ON topic and what is OFF topic. When you find that you or your ex starts to wander off into the old business of the marriage find a quick way to refocus the conversation back into the needs of your child. If this seems impossible (either you want to know if she is dating again or if he has gotten that hoped for promotion) you may decide that you need to communicate by text or e-mail. Before hitting send re-read your message several times to make sure that you are only talking about the welfare of your kids.
2. Limit the amount of conversation. If communication seems impossible but you must talk, schedule it in small sound bites and preferably when your kids cannot overhear the tension in your voice or the blame in your former spouse’s. Kids need to be protected from the negativity that is often associated with the emotional divorce. Blame and tension are actually pretty normal responses to divorce yet your kids need to be removed from the negativity and hurt. Limit your conversations to only a few minutes. If you need to rehash events from the past make sure to do it away from the kids.
3. Consider a middle man for the time being. If you just cannot seem to get anywhere in your conversations without it devolving into name calling and blaming you may need a third party to help you through. Perhaps there is a friend or family member who has your kids’ best interest at heart. He or she may have the ability to reason with you both. It is important to understand that the middle man is holding the space until you both can settle into the co-parenting relationship in a healthy way. If there is no one in your community of friends or family who can do this seriously consider hiring a Family therapist for the time being. Family Therapists are trained to help you both communicate with each other in helpful ways. And unlike other mental health providers they can work with you BOTH to get to a better place.
Your kids really need you both and the sooner you can figure out how to effectively co-parent the better for them and for you!