After messy divorces you don’t want anyone to think highly of your ex – including your children. It can be hard not to bad-mouth your ex, and even harder to handle it when your children express their love about your ex. The truth is, you need to allow your child to express love for the ex you might absolutely hate.
ALLOW YOUR CHILD TO EXPRESS LOVE FOR YOUR EX
is to “put your child first.” Many times children feel responsible for their parent’s divorce, so it’s important to put them first and make sure they know it wasn’t their fault. This simple tip will help put things in perspective to focus on what’s important as you navigate co-parenting. One factor that you’ll need to remember is that your kids still love their other parent. Forbidding or discouraging your children from expressing love or talking about their other parent while they are with you might feel tempting. But the truth is, it’s most likely to backfire. Rules like this often cause a child to feel as if they cannot speak freely around you. When this happens, you might soon find that your child isn’t just not speaking to you about the other parent, but also not speaking to you about other important things. Once the door of open and healthy parent-child communication is closed, it can be a hard one to re-open. What this means is that you will need to find a way to be okay with your ex, and to acknowledge that they are a part of your child’s life.
PUTTING YOUR CHILD’S NEEDS FIRST
Putting your child’s needs first, there are certain things they’ll need during this time: structure, acceptance, assurance of their safety, freedom from blame or guilt that they were responsible for their parent’s divorce, two stable parents, and the freedom and permission to just be a kid and have fun.
HOW TO CO-PARENT
Co-parenting is all about establishing a working relationship between you and your ex. If you two are not able to come to a friendly arrangement on your own, it is always advised that you work with a mediator that can help you establish some guidelines and rules.
Here are some things you should iron out when coming up with a co-parenting plan:
- Sit down with your ex and create a plan. Differences should be set aside so the focus can be put on meeting the needs of your children you will be co-parenting.
- Negotiate how to handle holidays, visitations, and events.
- Create guidelines for behavior of raising your children that each of you will adhise to. Children need consistency in their lives without regard as to which parent they’re with. This includes bed-times, phone privileges, etc. A child will frequently test situations and try to manipulate their boundaries. You and your ex must present a united front.
- Negotiate the roles of extended family members.
- Establish open communication with respect to the development of your child. This includes the ability to compare notes on situations and jointly deciding on any punishment.
- While it may be painful emotionally, you and your ex must decide to inform each other of any changes in circumstances of their life. Your child shouldn’t be the source of “breaking news.”
- Determine that you’ll conduct yourself with emotional integrity and maturity.
ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR CO-PARENTING
When all of you are together try to be friendly. You and your co-parent ex share a child or multiple children, and they will each grow differently and have different experiences. During sporting events, birthdays, parent-teacher conferences, graduations, etc., you’ll all be sharing the experience and the same location. Being friendly will make it easier for you, your co-parent, and especially your child. Say hi to each other and chat a little about what’s going on instead of waiting to send it in a text or email. Fake being friendly if you have to. The bottom line is to act like an adult, leave tantrums and acting like a brat to your children. This includes friends stepparents, and other family members. Kids are observant and can easily pick up on things if you’re being rude or feeling awkward, so act like the adult you’re supposed to be. Say “please” and “thank you” when you ask your co-parent for a favor and they follow through. This might be for schedule changes of requests for event dates. If you’re stuck in traffic or something comes up you’re not expecting and you need your co-parent to pick a child up because you can’t, a thank you can go a long way. If you can’t say it in person, send it in an email or text. Return phone calls, emails, and texts, even if it’s just to send an “ok.” It’s important and helpful for your co-parent to know you received their message. It’s also respectful and a great way to keep you and your co-parent informed of any changes or other important information. It is you and your co-parent’s business to know who is watching your child besides you. Your co-parent has a right to know what person their child is with if they’re not with you. If a neighbor is watching them for awhile if you have to go to the store, it’s not as important to let your co-parent know, but if it’s for a longer period of time you need to tell them and give them all that person’s information. Just telling them it’s “none of their business” is completely ridiculous and irresponsible. As a co-parent they have a right to know what’s happening with their child, the same as you do. Ask for your co-parent’s input to help develop a positive relationship as time goes forward. Even if you don’t take their opinion into consideration, since you’re not planning on following it, their opinion may surprise you and change your mind!
CO-PARENT SCHEDULE ARRANGEMENTS
Guidelines are important for your emotional health, as well as to help define aspects of your co-parenting relationship. This is why schedules are important. Not necessarily a weekly one, but one that involves events and holidays. This schedule should be agreed on far in advance so that co-parents know what parent the child will be spending Christmas and other holidays with in order to avoid fights during the holidays. These agreements don’t have to be formal, but if they’re in writing it makes it harder to argue about. There are a number of online tools available to assist you in creating a co-parenting schedule.
ALWAYS BE FLEXIBLE
While it’s important to set arrangements, you need to be sensitive to your child’s needs, which means being flexible. If your child really wants to have a night with dad instead of mom, then it might be best for your child to do it. This is a difficult time your kids are trying to adapt to. You should encourage them to be honest when it comes to their emotions. You also should be sensitive to your child emotions, which often means putting your own emotions aside.
CREATE A CO-PARENT RELATIONSHIP
Creating relationship with your co-parenting can be difficult. You may decide working with a mediator is the best option to making an agreement. Once you establish ground rules for yourself and how to maintain the relationship, over time it becomes easier. Creating a flexible schedule may help get to these “easier” moments. Even though there may be easier moments, there will be times when things feel impossible. Finding balance with your co-parent may help you both become better people and better parents to your children. By being cooperative with your co-parent, you establish a patter of life for your children which can carry into the future. The number one priority you and your co-parent need to do is to make sure you put the best interests of your child first.
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