You’d think divorce would come with an instruction manual or at least a cliff notes version on how to co parent but it doesn’t. So how do you co parent successfully when dealing with a difficult ex?
After happily co parenting with my ex for our own two kids, now 22 and 16 I can sum it like this. You have to be more invested in the love of your children than invested in the hate of your ex. That’s pretty much it.
I want to be clear. This didn’t come easy to me. I felt nervous, sad, afraid and I can honestly say that it wasn’t because I didn’t trust my ex. It was because I was unclear in my role as a mom in a co parenting framework. I don’t know if that makes sense but in the marriage I was the go-to parent and I loved it. I was the fixer and it made me feel valued. When the process of co parenting started I wasn’t sure if that’s how my kids would see me and that made me feel insecure.
My feelings had nothing to do with co parenting, it was old feelings from my past that had to do with me, not my ex. I had to start acting from how I wanted life to be, what I refer to as my future self, if I wanted this outcome to work for my kids.
You child’s relationship with the other parent has to matter to you on a level that is outside of yourself. You have to have a big why for co parenting and that why has to be more than just because the court documents say I have to or this is what I agreed to.
After my own divorce my reason for wanting to have a successful co- parenting relationship was because I didn’t want my kids to lack anything because of the downfall our relationship.
I didn’t want them to lack what their dad could teach them that I couldn’t and I didn’t want them to lack a deep positive connection with me because they felt I kept them from their dad. I wanted them to feel whole, confident and loved so they could grow up to be responsible, heart centered leaders that contributed positively to society.
That was my why.
My why meant something so big the impact could either make or break my children. That’s what it came down to for me.
Co parenting is one of the most difficult things to do. Once you and your ex get a rhythm its still not easy peasy, but it’s a lot easier than the alternative.
People think that co parenting means you still love your ex , your best friends and it’s like an episode of Reba. Not even close! But to do it successfully it is a decision you make from your heart and head to parent from a place of love versus being right.
It comes down to 7 steps to co parent successfully.
1. Let go
This is probably one of the hardest of all 7 steps. It requires letting go of the hurt. The hurt from divorce can motivate you in ways you may not be aware of. It can allow us to interpret information and responses as threats all the time. In reality there is not a threat just an assumption. But that assumption comes from a place of fear that is based on the past relationship.
The best thing I can recommend for letting go is going inward to do self evaluation. It’s a process and it takes time but if you can start it will help coparenting by leaps and bounds. Bottom line you can’t hold hate and love in your heart at the same time, something has to be let go. When I say love I don’t mean a romantic, sexual love, I mean a human to human love, like a level of care and respect. He did create a child with you so from that perspective hopefully there is room for that level of care.
Accept that your co parenting relationship has nothing to do with what your marriage was.
Please let this marinate. Co parenting has zero to do with what your ex did to you, how the marriage ended, or that time he lied and you caught him. Leave all that out! The only focus of co parenting is the betterment of your children. That it! Don’t try to make co parenting apart of your revenge process or a way to be passive aggressive. The agreement to parent responsibly has nothing to do with being right all the time. It feels good to be right and maybe you are right more than half the time but how does that help your child? Next time a situation comes up and you have the urge to prove you’re right to your ex ask yourself 1 question. How does this help my child?
Your attitude is 100% within your control. Become self disciplined with your attitude, your thoughts and how you take care of self. Co parenting is hard and there’s not alot about it you can control. But your attitude will determine how successful the co parenting process is.
Whether or not you realize it co parenting is one of the greatest expressions of love. Your kids will learn how to love from you and the other parent. I talk about this in my free guide for divorced women. Being able to co parent successfully means you are choosing to overlook your differences and respect and care for each other enough to create a positive & loving environment for your child. That is an incredible thing! Imagine if all children could have this. Whether or not if parents are divorced or not, the reality is all kids do not get this. Our world would be a lot different if they did. Co parenting is a responsible contribution to society.
Make communication with your ex open, clear and based on facts. Be proactive instead of reactive with your communication. When a situation comes up with your ex that you HAVE to talk to him about something It probably makes you feel anxious, worried, upset and you may not choose the right words. It leaves little room to come from a place of solutions.
When you HAVE to do something it’s usually something you really don’t want to do. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a HAVE to moment it would be an I want to moment. Have to’s and Want to’s give two different feelings in your body and mind. When you react from a place of I have to your body and mind react from a place of struggle and difficulty. When you react from a place of I want you move from a place of solutions.
Make your communication simple, timely, clear and based on facts.
This one is simple. Either you trust your ex to take care of his kids or you don’t. If you don’t then you need to go through the courts or CPS to legally document and control parenting activities with your ex.
Ok, so forgiveness is hard and it takes time. Realize upfront that there will be mistakes, miscommunications, delays, missed appointments, you name it will come up in coparenting. The ability to forgive and move on will be helpful in the process. No one’s perfect and both sides have to work through the kinks the best way they know how. Raising kids doesn’t require perfect but it does require flexibility.
There’s like 5 more things I could include on this list like flexibility, open mindedness, mindfulness, think long speak slow & laugh. But 12 things are a lot of things to remember. Focus on the 7, trust the process, lead with love and let your Higher Power do the rest.
What other things have worked for your co parenting partnership? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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