Parenting children can be difficult; co-parenting can be even more so. After a divorce, parenting with your ex-spouse can cause anxiety, frustration, and occasionally anger, as you struggle to cope with the realignment of family arrangements that had previously been in place. In addition, when a new boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife enters the picture, navigating parental roles can be little short of daunting. That said, although co-parenting has many challenges, there are also things you can do to make it a bit easier for everyone involved.
1. Recognize That Emotions Are Normal. Parent-child relationships are among our most basic and important and anything that seems like a threat to those relationships is likely to trigger an emotional response. Unchecked, however, emotions can lead to behaviors that damage the very relationships that matter most. It is important that you take steps to manage emotional responses. This may be as simple as taking a deep breath and counting to ten before responding to an upsetting email or talking to a friend when you are feeling stressed. In other cases, it may be beneficial to talk to a counselor or therapist.
2. Accept That You Don’t Control What Happens At The Other Parent’s Home. This is often one of the most difficult things for divorced parents to accept, but it is imperative that you do so. You are in charge of what happens in your home; your ex-spouse is in charge of what happens in his or her home. Attempting to micro-manage the other parent’s interactions with your children is very unlikely to lead to positive outcomes. Consider how you would feel if the situation was reversed.
3. Focus On What Really Matters And Don’t Obsess Over Minor Issues. Ultimately, your goal is presumably for your children to be healthy, happy, and successful in life. When your ex does something with which you disagree, think about it in terms of that overall objective. You may not agree with everything your spouse does as a parent, but unless his or her actions are truly and objectively potentially harmful, they may not be worth arguing about. That doesn’t mean that you should always ignore issues just because they are minor, but if you do address them, try to have a respectful discussion to try to come to agreement.
4. Don’t Put Kids In The Middle. If there is an issue that truly needs to be addressed, talk directly to the other parent, not through the children. Likewise, don’t express your disagreement or frustration with your ex to the kids; being mediators in parenting disputes is NOT their role. If intervention is necessary, seek professional help. Making kids take sides is the best way to turn them against you.