Co-parenting with an ex is not always the easiest thing to do.
A separation or divorce does not always mean a clean get away from your ex.
You still have to try to work together to raise your children into successful, respectful, human beings.
1. It is not about you.
It’s not about you or your ex. It’s about the kids. When my ex is being argumentative and difficult to talk to and all I want to do is argue back or hang up on him, I continually remind myself to focus on our daughter. Bring the conversation back to your child(ren), say what you need to say concerning the kids only, make the plans you need to make, then get off the phone. I know, in my situation personally, my ex loves to debate, argue, prove his point like he’s beating a dead horse. I don’t let him.
I keep the conversation centered on the needs of our daughter and then end the conversation.
I know you know communication makes the world go ‘round. Every relationship article focuses on the importance of open communication. But here’s the thing: they’re not wrong. Communication is so important in having as decent a relationship with your child’s other parent as you can. It is so important to be on the same page when it comes to raising your kids. I am fortunate to have an ex who realizes this also and we are able to discuss how we want our child to be raised even in two separate households.
We try, as best we can, to follow the same bedtime schedule, same chore list, and if she is having trouble with something or gets in trouble for something, we let the other know so we can work on helping, correcting, or disciplining together. It is possible to raise a child together, in separate homes. It just takes good communication.
My ex and I have a pretty flux 50/50 custody schedule. It’s mostly an every other day schedule but things come up. Not to mention he is in the National Guard and his drill schedule may change. There are illnesses, appointments, special activities we each want to take our daughter to. We are able to communicate (see? I told you it was important) with each other and change our schedules as need be. Because again, it’s not about you. It’s what is best for our daughter.
Now, don’t take this one as code for being walked all over, though. There is a difference between being flexible and allowing your ex to take advantage of that. My ex tried to change pick-up plans on me a few months ago for a non-emergency, non-situational reason and, while I did change plans and keep our daughter for an extra night, I let him know it was inconsiderate to expect me to alter the set schedule we agreed on for frivolous reasons at the last minute.
Kids know more about what’s going on than we think they do. They are always watching, always listening. I try to keep this in mind every time I talk to her dad or about her dad. If she’s not with me watching and listening, then she’s most likely with him watching and listening to how he reacts or responds, the words he chooses to use, or the tone he has.
She is always looking to us for her social cues, picking up on our attitudes and demeanor, and following our example in her own relationships with her peers. If I’m name calling or not being considerate or respectful with my words and actions, what is that teaching my daughter?
Along the same lines of #4, but I cannot stress this enough: never, ever make your child feel like they are in the middle of your parental tug-o-war. Never make them feel at fault. And never make them the go-between. No matter how frustrated/angry/pissed off I may be towards my ex, whenever my 3-year-old daughter talks about her daddy, I strive to give her nothing but positive feedback. I never want her to feel guilty over loving her father, or feel like she has to hide the fun she has when she’s with him.
No one is perfect. No one can do it all. Co-parenting with an ex isn’t easy. Ask for help if you need it. Find your support system. Find your village. You’re only human. Sure, we need to be strong for our kids. But I think they need to know we’re human, too. We get frustrated. We get mad. We feel defeated. We cry. But then we get back up and we show our kids what resilience is.
Personal Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert in family or divorce cases. These thoughts are all from my own personal experience and what I have learned and applied in my own life. What works for me, my ex, and our co-parenting strategy may not work for you.