The idea behind coparenting is that even though your marriage is over the parenting relationship you have with your ex continues. In over two decades of practice I have seen people who have handled this situation effectively, as well as those who have spent their children’s remaining childhood feuding with each other. Obviously, the latter situation should be avoided if at all possible. Here are my best tips on how to effectively manage that relationship.
Focus on Your Ex’s Positive Traits
It is entirely understandable if you have negative thoughts towards your ex after a divorce. Depending on how your divorce played out you might have been entirely in the right and they might have been entirely in the wrong. But once you are divorced this ceases to matter.
You have a job to do as a parent and you cannot do it effectively if you are obsessed with negative thoughts about the divorce and your ex. Your children will adapt to the new situation much more quickly if you speak positively of your ex and they see you treating him or her with respect. While this behavior might not be reciprocated initially, if you keep it up there is a good chance your ex will come around and deal with you in a more adult manner as well.
Accept Your Ex’s New Partner
It is very common after a divorce for one or both spouses to quickly remarry or to at least have developed a serious relationship. For a lot of newly divorced people this can be difficult to deal with, especially if you didn’t want the divorce in the first place.
While it makes sense that you might be resentful and have animosity towards the new person, I encourage you to keep these feelings to yourself. With time they will likely subside. What is important in your role as a parent is that your children not feel that in order to be loyal to you they must maintain a similar level of hostility towards the new person. As much as possible you should encourage your children to accept the new person in your ex’s life and explain that you won’t be bothered if they develop a good relationship with this person.
Avoid Using the Children as Messengers
Some relationships are so bad after a divorce that the two ex’s feel incapable of communicating with each other. Often in these scenarios they will use the children as a go between to relay messages. This is a huge mistake and put your child directly in the middle of the conflict between you and your ex.
If you find it difficult to speak with your ex then use other forms of communication such as emails or texts, but not your children. If your spouse continues using the children as messengers simply refuse to respond through the children’s. While you can’t control your ex’s behavior you can control how you respond to it.
Tell Your Children How Much You Love Them
This may seem obvious but it is frequently forgotten. Children going through the upheaval of a divorce need a lot of reassurance and to be told frequently that they are loved. This is especially true with younger children who tend to internalize everything resulting in them feeling a sense of fault for the divorce. They need to be reassured over and over that divorce had nothing to do with them and that both parents still love them.
While co-parenting certainly has its challenges it is by far the most effective way to avoid many of the negative consequences of divorce for children. Do a good job of it and at some point your adult children will thank you for being so mature about how you handled your divorce.