Several weeks ago I got a text message from my ex stating that I didn’t know how to be a good parent. I felt my anger go from 0 to 100 in a matter of seconds. My fingers started typing up a nasty reply before I could even think about what I was doing. I read the reply I mocked up, read through it again, took a deep breath and then I deleted it.
I know, it’s not what you wanted to hear, but here are some secrets to get you through the worst:
Take time to respond.
When you feel agitated, upset, and even angry… write down how you’re feeling and how you’d like to respond. Then take 20 minutes to yourself. Go for a walk, listen to some music, watch an episode of your favorite TV show. Whatever it takes to calm yourself down and look at the message through another lens. Then, re-read the message and respond appropriately. You just might have a new perspective on things when you step away for a minute then come back to it.
Don’t lash out.
Lashing out and snapping back at your co-parent is not going to win you any brownie points, even if it does feel better at the time. Instead, take a deep breath, and talk to someone who can relate to what you’re going through or give you some advice.
Set hurt and anger aside.
It’s okay to be hurt and angry, but your feelings don’t have to dictate your behavior.
Set a business-like tone.
Approach the relationship with your ex as a business partnership where your “business” is your children’s well-being. Speak or write to your ex as you would a colleague. Be cordial, treat them with respect, and don’t take sides.
Instead of making statements, make requests. Statements can be misinterpreted as demands, so try making requests instead. Requests should begin with “Would you be willing to…?” or “Can we try…?”
Communicating effectively starts with actively listening. Even if you don’t agree with the other parent, you should at least be able to convey to your ex that you’ve understood their point of view (that doesn’t mean you agree). Sometimes people just want to feel heard, regardless if you agree or not.
Keep conversations kid-focused.
Never let a discussion with your ex-partner turn into a conversation about your needs or their needs; it should always be about your child’s needs.
Quickly relieve stress in the moment.
It may seem impossible to stay calm when dealing with a difficult co-parent who’s hurt you in the past or knows how to push your buttons. Try practicing quick stress relief techniques. Take a walk, watch an episode of your favorite TV show, dance around to some music, whatever makes you smile again. This will help you learn to stay in control when the pressure builds.
Ask your ex’s opinion.
This simple technique can jump-start positive communications between you and your ex. Take an issue that you don’t feel strongly about, and ask for your ex’s input. This will show your ex that you value their input.
When you’re sorry about something, apologize sincerely—even if the incident happened a long time ago. Apologizing can be very powerful.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
If you disagree about important issues like a medical surgery or choice of school for your child, by all means, keep the discussion going. But if you want your child in bed by 7:30 and your ex says 8:00, let it go and save your energy for the bigger issues.
It may not always be your first choice, but compromise allows you both to “win” and makes both of you more likely to be flexible in the future.
Use a co-parenting app.
Track your conversations, schedules, agreements, and custody time with a coparenting app. Instead of saving receipts and text messages, let an app do all the work for you. Trust me, it’ll make things much easier on you! Especially if you have to go to court and provide backup of conversations or agreements you made with your ex.
These secrets have helped me through some of the toughest situations in my life and I want to help you through yours. We all have our own way of doing things and I hope these secrets can make your co-parenting relationship less stressful and more full of life.