Following a divorce, there are so many dynamic factors occurring in the coParenting relationship between you and your ex-spouse. Tensions and emotions can run high, and that can get passed onto your children.
The marital relationship is over and the coParenting relationship is emerging, often bringing the hurt and grievances from the marriage. This can be a difficult time for some and while every relationship may present their own unique challenges, here is a template for rules to remember to help keep things positive.
- Ask questions about your coParent’s point of view. When you are planning for the children it shows respect for their role as a parent if you ask them their opinion. Ask the question before you state what your opinion is as it shows genuine interest in what they have to say. Including the other parent in decision making is important in establishing what your coParenting relationship will look like.
- Allow your coParent to speak before you speak during an argument. Conflict can be escalated when people feel they are being disrespected, dismissed, or ignored. These feelings may already exist following a divorce and may be heightened if people interrupt one another. It conveys respect and interest in their views when you listen to everything they have to say.
- Acknowledge what your coParent is saying. This is an instant validation of their opinions and contribution to the conversation when it comes to your children. When people feel validated and respected, emotions can remain calm and there will be far more productive conversations.
- Allow time to include your coParent in the decision-making process. When your child asks you for something that should be discussed with your coParent, do not answer right away and tell them you and their other parent will have to discuss together. Unless it is an emergency, presenting parenting decisions to the other parent in a timely manner shows that you value their input and gives them time to think.
- Stand united and support the decisions you’ve made together. If possible, when there is a joint decision made it would be wonderful if the parents talk to the children together about that decision. Present as a united front and say “We’ve talked and we’ve decided that…”. If you show the division between you as parents, it may create feelings of ill will with one or both of you as parents, which is not healthy for your children.
- Stay calm and keep parenting. Keeping your emotions under control, and gaining perspective from your support system will help guide you in deciding which issues should be brought up or not. A common topic is regarding children getting bumps or bruises while in the care of the other parent and this causes an argument between coParents. When this happens it is good to seek perspective from friends and family, as sometimes emotions of the recently divorced run high and things seem worse than they actually are. Before reacting think about whether the other parent did all they could to protect the child. Think: has something similar happened with you? and what was the intent of the other parent during the time with the child and what would be the outcome of bringing it up?
Establishing a healthy coParenting relationship is attainable with the right communication and support system around both coParents. Even when people feel that they are lost and hopeless in their efforts, remembering to focus on your children may give you the strength to keep going. Although you may feel as if sometimes you are moving backward in that relationship, with time and commitment your children will benefit from your perseverance.