Unfortunately, divorce can bring out the worst in us. The biggest obstacles to successful co-parenting are emotions like anger, resentment, and jealousy. Those kinds of emotions make the challenge of co-parenting with your ex more difficult. However, your children still need their mother and their father—whether they still live together or not. Here are five things to remember to help you successfully co-parent together.
It is not about you…it is about your kids.
If the adults involved just remember that it is about the kids, there would not be near as many challenges. Commit to putting your children’s well-being ahead of any issues you may have with your ex. It takes maturity and dedication to let go of past wounds and bitterness, but it will make a difficult situation much easier. Also, encourage your children’s relationship with their new stepparent. Recognize that they are not your rival or replacement, but that you are all in this together in helping raise your children. Often it is easier said than done, but try your best anyway. Attitude and effort count.
Always treat the other parent with respect
No matter how difficult this may be, it is imperative you treat your children’s mother with respect—regardless of how she treats you. Not only does this help keep a civil relationship between you and your ex, it also is in the best interests of your children. There is no woman that your children love more than their mother. Bad mouthing or being disrespectful towards her hurts your children, it makes you look bad, and it teaches them negative lessons on what relationships should look like and how people should be treated. It will also turn your children against you. Never allow your children to be disrespectful or speak disrespectful towards their mother–even in the privacy of your home.
Keep lines of communication open with co-parent
Effective communication is the number one most important factor in maintaining healthy relationships. Unfortunately, verbal communication is not generally a man’s strong suit. Even after 35 years together my wife is still continually telling me, “use your words.” But you can also communicate in a variety of ways such as through email, texting, voicemail, as well as face-to-face conversation. Remember too that voice inflection and body language convey more meaning than verbal communication does. If your tone is sarcastic and your body language aggressive you will send those messages regardless of the words you use. If you do not keep the lines of communication open with your ex, your children will be the ones who suffer most.
Let the kids see their bio parents
Your children did not ask for this situation, so do not hurt them any more than they already are by not allowing them to see their biological parent. In addition, do not “punish” your ex by withholding their children from them. Your children are not pawns in a game of revenge. By doing that, you are hurting your children more than your ex. They need to spend time with their other parent.
Keep it business-like
A healthy co-parenting relationship looks like a business relationship. Do not bring emotions into it. Do what is best for your kids…always! The question I get most often is “What if my ex has a different value system than I do?” Hopefully you are able to agree on boundaries and behavioral guidelines with consistent rules in each home, but if not, it is vital for children to know that the rules in your home are part of your value system. At the same time, it is important to respect the other parent’s rules in their household (even if they are different from yours).
Rick Johnson is a sought-after speaker and bestselling author of 11 books on parenting and marriage. He is also the founder and director of Better Dads Ministries.
The National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse is an Office of Family Assistance (OFA) funded national resource for fathers, practitioners, programs/Federal grantees, states, and the public at-large who are serving or interested in supporting strong fathers and families. For more information visit www.fatherhood.gov