You can’t co-parent if you’re still waging war. Your kids deserve much better from you.
Some divorces are easy. Unfortunately, most aren’t. Most divorces are really, really hard to get through. And the worst ones? Those are the ones where the divorce became a war and the former spouses still view each other as the enemy because they know in their guts that the divorce was just one battle.
And after the divorce is final, the kids (and their affection) become the next battle. One of the former spouses will win and the other will lose. But the problem is the kids will lose too.
If you see your ex as the enemy, it can seem nearly impossible to co-parent with them yet somehow that’s exactly what you need to do: figure out how to co-parent with the enemy.
Sure, you’ve read all kinds of how to co-parent articles and books, but few if any help because they’re either too superficial or they assume you and your ex had this easy-peasy divorce where you’re still best friends. How unhelpful is that?!
So where do you need to start on your journey of learning how to co-parent with the enemy?
You must decide that you’ll put your kids’ best interests BEFORE the battle and your need to ultimately win the war. As much as it grates on you to stop the fighting, you know the truth is kids do best when they have both parents in their lives.
(Unless, of course, your ex is abusive and the courts have stepped in to help matters. But if that were the case you probably wouldn’t be reading this article.)
Do you love your kids? Then, do what’s best for them – not what you’re telling yourself is best for them, but what’s really best for them and choose to co-parent with their other parent.
Yup, the first thing you need to do is stop viewing your ex as the enemy. Instead view them as your children’s other parent.
One of the easiest ways to start doing this is to change their contact information from “Satan” or whatever name you’ve already changed it to to “Kids’ Mom” or “Kids’ Dad”. This incredibly simple edit will remind you of your decision to put the needs of your children first whenever their other parent contacts you.
The next step is to establish ground rules for communication and stick to them. It’s likely you’ve already heard this suggestion while you were going through your divorce, but if you’re still waging war, then you’re probably still ignoring the suggestion.
Well, it’s time to get serious about being the parent your children need and deserve. Decide what types of communication will happen by email (usually the non-urgent things), which will happen by a call, and which will happen by text. Let your ex know that you’ll be following these guidelines and that you expect them to do the same.
What if they don’t? Well, then when you have the kids, you can block their other parent’s number and enjoy being with your children. Eventually, the poor communication will stop, but you have to take the lead on this.
Finally, you need to schedule regular co-parenting meetings that you run like a business meeting. Yup, you have an agenda that you stick to when you talk the important stuff to make sure your kids are receiving the best from both of you.
And if these meetings are too difficult, then work with a family therapist to help make sure you’re doing your best to meet the responsibilities you have in learning how to co-parent effectively.
Will this be easy? Probably not, but there’s a chance that it will. When you make up your mind that you will be the best parent you can possibly be you just might surprise yourself by how quickly you stop viewing your ex as the enemy and instead as your partner in raising your amazing children.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are struggling with how to co-parent among all the other challenges of healing after divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
Looking for more help with parenting after divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Coparenting.