As a practicing divorce attorney for the past 18 years I have seen hundreds of clients deal with situations that were gut-wrenching and emotionally draining. The most difficult of these situations are when there are children of the marriage that need to be raised by two parents, whether you are getting divorced or not. As difficult as co-parenting may be, it is a challenge that parents must rise to meet. Your marriage may end, but your obligation to do the best job possible in raising your children does not. And this obligation includes doing everything to help your child to have a healthy relationship with the other parent. The only way for that to happen is by co-parenting the child.
Although challenging co-parenting is definitely possible and in your child’s best interest. Here are a few tips on how to manage some common c0-parenting pitfalls.
When Communicating With Your Ex Keep it Civil
Depending on the particular circumstances of your divorce, it may be completely understandable that you have a lot of negative feelings towards your ex. Nonetheless, you need to put those thoughts aside and deal with your ex civilly, whether you genuinely feel that way or not. If you cannot act friendly towards your ex then at least try to treat the relationship like you would an unpleasant coworker or maybe a boss who you didn’t like. Deal with them as necessary and keep it as professional and civil as possible.
Avoid Negative Comments About Your Ex
One of the worst things you can do is to tell your child negative things about their other parent. Recognize that if you do this you are hurting your child far more than you are the other parent. If you need to vent, then do so with a friend or family member but shield your child from it entirely. Even if your ex bad-mouths you to your child, do not retaliate. Take it up with your ex and explain that, for the sake of your child you promise to never speak negatively of them in front your child and that you ask that he/she do the same.
Avoid Involving Your Child in Financial Issues
When it comes to dealing with money issues with your ex avoid discussing or involving your child. It can start innocently enough, “ask your father if he already mailed your tuition check to St. Josephs.” When the question is relayed your ex feels like he is being accused of failing to live up to his obligations and sends a message back with the child, this one a bit nastier. “Tell her it is not due for 3 weeks, so don’t worry about it.” And on and on, you get the idea. Avoid this kind of situation entirely by just calling, emailing or texting about all financial issues and keeping your child from feeling stuck in the middle.
Accept the New Spouse
It is normal for your initial (and maybe permanent) opinion of your ex’s new spouse to be a negative one. Keep it to yourself. Your child needs to feel that it is okay for them to form their own opinion of this new person in their life. Hopefully, that relationship is a positive one. Don’t worry about being replaced in your child’s eyes. While it is possible for a child to have an excellent relationship with a stepparent, there is no substitute for a healthy, strong relationship with a biological parent.
Tell Your Child How Much You Love Them
It may seem obvious that children need to hear this often (and not just young children, all children), but it is so important that it is worth addressing. When a child’s parents are going through a divorce they are very vulnerable and need frequent reassurance that they are important and loved. Don’t worry about telling them too often, you really can’t overdo it.
While co-parenting can definitely be challenging at times, it is worth it. Do it right and when your children are grown they will tell you how much they appreciated that their parents (unlike many of their friends’ parents) were able to get along and avoid dragging them into their disagreements.