When a separation or divorce is filled with anger, sadness or resentment, it might seem easier to cut off communication with your ex-spouse completely. However, having kids makes it necessary to stay involved in each other’s lives -- and to put the children's emotional and physical wellness first. While it may be difficult early on, keep conversations kid-focused and avoid allowing any conversation to digress into your needs or the needs of your ex.
Anger and resentment are often normal feelings in a separation or divorce. However, your child needs you to put bitterness aside and stay kid-focused to construct a successful co-parenting relationship. If you have pent-up anger, vent with a family member, friend or therapist, but never discuss the issues with your children or in front of them, KidsHealth cautions. Expressing negative feelings about your ex might make your child feel the need to choose between the two of you.
Your youngster should never be put in the middle of relationship issues. For example, kids should never be messengers between you and your former spouse. If you have an issue to discuss or a message to convey, take it directly to the other party.
Effective and Explosion-free Communication
Make your child the focus of every conversation if communication with your ex is a tough task. Think of your relationship as a business partnership and your children's well-being is your business goal. Speak like you would to a colleague -- with respect and neutrality -- and try framing statements as requests, to avoid them being misinterpreted as demands. For example, "Can we try alternating who takes Johnny to soccer practice?" or "Would you be willing to pick Sarah up after school?"
When discussing parenting issues, listen to what your former partner has to say -- even if you don't agree with his opinion, Military OneSource advises. Commit to communicating frequently -- it keeps you both up to date with parenting issues and shows your children that as parents, you present a united front.
Aim for consistency whether your child is in your home or your ex's, recommends the American Academy of Pediatrics’ HealthyChildren.org website. Establish guidelines that are relatively consistent in areas of importance, such as schoolwork, activities that are off-limits and curfews.
Discuss a common system of consequences, too, so your child knows what to expect for broken rules, and try to enforce consequences across both homes. For example, if your child is grounded for breaking curfew regularly, enforce the house arrest if it is still in effect when she comes to stay with you. Your child will also adjust to the new arrangements if both you and your ex maintain similar schedules, serving meals at similar times, enforcing study time and making bedtime the same in both homes.
Differences of opinion are bound to happen, and when they do, be respectful and consider your ex's opinion earnestly. Don't bury the subject matter, but avoid discussing the issue in front of your child. If you can't work out an important issue, consider enlisting the help of a third party, such as a mediator or therapist. If the issue is minor, don't sweat the small stuff and accept that compromise is an essential part of the parenting relationship -- whether or not you're living under the same roof.
Making It Right
Ask for your ex’s opinion once you're ready to improve your post-divorce relationship, to demonstrate you value his input. Start with issues you don't feel strongly about and work from there. Be flexible when possible, staying cool when a trip to the amusement park with your ex cuts into a little of your child's time with you. Say you're sorry when you mean it -- whether it's for returning a little late with your youngster or apologizing for a past wrong. A sincere apology can go a long way in mending fences and building a strong co-parenting relationship.
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