Parenting is hard enough as it is. It can be even more difficult to co-parent. Staying on the same page, cooperating, and remaining consistent are often full-time jobs.
Parents that split up often struggle to stay on track with parenting goals. The most important thing to remember is that your child needs your leadership and modeling to remain happy and well during this time of family transition.
But what if you find that you are co-parenting with a difficult or resistant ex?
First, pay attention to your feelings. You may feel frustrated, angry, or hurt. That’s okay. It’s important to acknowledge that. Process your emotions fully. Also, carefully examine your own behavior and reactions before focusing too heavily on your ex.
Most of all, know that a difficult relationship often undermines co-parenting. To overcome this, you need support and intention. Consider the following ideas for productive co-parenting, your kids’ security, and your own peace of mind:
How To Co-Parent Productively With A Difficult Or Resistant Ex
Remember, you’re on the same team when it comes to your kids.
After a breakup, it’s all too easy to see your ex as the enemy. This is not healthy for you, and it certainly is not healthy or helpful as you raise your children together.
Be intentional about how you think about co-parenting. Consider yourself part of a parenting team for your children. You don’t want to sideline yourself or their other parent but win together.
This perspective can make it easier to do your part. Focus on key goals: raise your children, make healthy decisions for and about them, and provide them with a strong, secure, and reliable family environment. Even if the other parent is obstinate or contrarian, your principles can be a healthy guide forward.
Keep your child(ren) the #1 focus.
On a similar note, focus on the child’s needs and wants rather than what happened in your former relationship. If it’s hard for you to interact with a difficult ex, then try to see your relationship as a business transaction.
You both have a shared interest and responsibility towards your child, so keep it like that. You don’t have to be best friends. Politely minimize conversation and keep custody exchanges fairly formal. Use a mediator or proxy if you need to. There are several apps that help parents co-parent together and keep the communication solely related to matters that are relevant for the kids. The main goal is to keep the relationship polite and non-confrontational.
Co-parent without blame or bitterness.
Being angry, resentful, and bitter towards your ex only creates a negative environment for your child. The past must be resolved enough to parent your child(ren) well. If you find it difficult to remain present and polite due to past transgressions, seek outside counsel. Let go of the past, move on and start afresh. It’ll make co-parenting much easier, more productive, and a more positive experience for everyone involved.
Honor your co-parent publicly and privately.
However, your ex behaves, try to rise above it. Resist the urge to criticize your co-parent to others or within earshot of your child. This can negatively impact their emotions and relationship with the co-parent.
Be as respectful as you can and take the high road. Your kids will notice this. Of course, if you feel you are ever in danger, handle that matter quickly with the proper authorities.
Release unrealistic expectations.
If your partner was a disinterested or an overly permissive parent prior to your breakup, it’s likely much won’t change after your breakup. Try not to set high expectations regarding your ex’s reform, or desire to reform, as a parent. Your way needn’t be the only way to parent. Be as flexible and cooperative as you can without compromising your kids’ needs, or the parenting agreement.
Ensure you have a support system.
Life with a difficult co-parent can make you feel very alone and overwhelmed. Do all you can to secure a good support system of nonjudgmental family and friends to help you keep your cool, vent, and make wise parenting decisions.
Get help sooner rather than later.
To set healthy boundaries and safe places with both parents is vital. You need to honor each other’s rules and boundaries so that your children know what is expected of them.
If you find that you and your ex are at a parenting impasse, don’t wait to get help. You don’t want the situation to escalate and negatively impact your child(ren). It may be that you are best able to make peace with a family counselor, court-appointed mediation, or some other form of impartial support.
As early on as possible, work with someone who has the best interest of your children and family dynamic at heart. When you are ready, I’m here to help. Please read more about parent therapy and contact me soon for a consultation.