Posted by Soribel Martinez, LCSW
Do you feel trapped trying to co-parent with an ex you really don’t like? Raising kids is hard enough, but trying to do so with another adult you’d rather not be in contact with at all takes things to a different level.
For better or worse, this is a fairly common situation. While some former marriage and romantic partners have a smooth, amicable co-parenting relationship, many don’t. There are steps you can take to navigate this uncomfortable place, though.
Let Kids Be Kids
Letting go of the emotional pain that a former spouse or partner created in your life can be really difficult. You may be hanging onto resentments from a divorce settlement or infidelity. Perhaps you’re even still dealing with delays in receiving support payments.
While you don’t have to ignore these feelings or pretend that they don’t matter, you need to set them aside for your children. Your children need to be free to maintain and enjoy a relationship with both parents. They don’t need to be saddled with emotional baggage created by your own resentments.
It may take everything you have to avoid making snide remarks about your ex in front of your kids. After all, you probably know your ex’s flaws better than most.
Letting your kids know how you really feel won’t help them or your co-parenting relationship, however. Your kids love both of you. Their relationship with your ex is entirely different from the romantic partnership you had with your ex.
You can still vent to friends, family, and a therapist, of course! Getting support for yourself is important. Just don’t use your kids as your tell-all besties.
Create a Parenting Plan
Creating a parenting plan is often part of divorce proceedings. If you’re able to, be thorough and thoughtful about what you want to include in this plan. Research all topics you might want to address in this plan. It can help set the stage for some level of expectations and standards for how your kids will be raised. You might even consider including that each of you take a mandatory co-parenting class every year, for example.
Treat it Like a Business Relationship
Many co-parenting experts recommend viewing your ex and your relationship with them as a business relationship. Look at it as a professional obligation that requires professional behavior. This can help remove some emotions from the equation.
Be Your Best Parent
No matter who your ex is or what they are like, your relationship with your kids is your own to nurture. As much as you are able, invest in your children’s lives. Be intentional about time with them. Be involved in their activities and interests. Let them know that you have their back. Few things are as important in life as this. And giving your children this emotional stability and care will help them adjust better to life without both parents in the same household.
While civility and respect are important in co-parenting, it’s also important to keep track of things that concern you in terms of your ex’s relationship with your kids. If your ex is consistently late with support, doesn’t respond to your requests for their involvement or major decisions regarding the kids, or flakes out on visitation often, keep documentation.
Some former couples benefit from co-parent counseling. Having a neutral third party work with both of you to iron out co-parenting difficulties can be invaluable. If your efforts to co-parent continue to stall, this is a good option.
Likewise, you may want to consider individual therapy to help you overcome a messy breakup or deal with any fallout that’s affecting your children. I offer both options in my practice. Please contact my office to learn more about how I can help you.