How to Co-Parent With an Ex

Co-parenting with an ex-spouse takes practice, patience and understanding. It's not only the parents who have a difficult adjustment to make, so do the children. Here's how to co-parent with your child's emotional well-being in mind.


    • 1

      Consider what is best for your child.
      A 10-year-old boy who divided his time between his mother's home and his dad's home told me, "No matter where I am I am always missing someone." When he is with his dad he misses his mom, when he is with his mom he misses his dad. Be aware that your child is coping with sad feelings. Be sensitive to what your child is experiencing as he makes the difficult transition from Mom's house to Dad's.

    • 2

      Don't bash the other parent.
      Remember that your child loves the other parent. When a parent complains about the other parent, on some level children must feel that the parent is also complaining about them too. As a little girl expressed to her Dad, "Since you don't like my Mom, you must not like me, since Mom is part of me."

    • 3

      Put aside old grievances.
      You are divorced. Now put aside the blame, anger and hurt and move forward. Dwelling on the past will get in the way of putting the needs of your children above your own. Speak pleasantly about and to the other parent. Work together for the good of your child.

    • 4

      Give the child a voice.
      In the blending of households and the juggling of visitations, kids often feel they have no rights. In some ways this is true, because the adults are making so many decisions on behalf of the child. To minimize their feelings of helplessness, give the child as much control as you can over the little things. There is a lot of give-and-take that happens in families. Cooperate with your ex to accommodate changes in schedules and activities, and honor the child's preferences when you can. Such flexibility establishes a good co-parenting pattern.

    • 5

      Be sensitive.
      Children of divorce suffer setbacks to self-esteem and their sense of security is shaken. Often plagued by shame and guilt, they feel responsible for the divorce. They have lost a portion of childhood innocence and are forced to deal with adult issues before they have the skills. Don't make it harder on them.

    • 6

      Assume the best.
      You can assist your children in resolving the upset they may feel by assuming the best. The worse your child is behaving, the more he or she needs kindness and recognition and genuine praise. Expect good things to come.

    • 7

      Fake it til you make it.
      If you don't like your ex, fake it. Try hard not to be defensive when speaking with your ex. Be polite and stay positive. If you and your ex cannot agree and are continuing in negative attitudes and behavior, consider getting an outside consultation. Choose from family counseling, pastoral advice, a support group or attend a parenting class together. Seeking outside help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of loving to do all that you can to heal the wounds and be responsible parents.

Tips & Warnings

  • My book, "Wonderful Ways to Love a Child," may offer some insight on this subject (see Resources below).
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