Although your romantic relationship is ending with your spouse or partner, if you share children, you will always have a co-parenting relationship. No matter how you feel about your ex, you need to have a positive working relationship for the sake of your children. Studies show that children do much better in divorce when they have a stable, supportive co-parenting situation.
Some couples find this easier than they thought because once they have closure on their personal relationship with their ex, they can let go of their anger and focus on the children they share. Other couples have a harder time getting past their personal differences and need some help learning how to be positive co-parents. Tips for keeping the relationship positive include:
- Be supportive – Remember that your children need both parents in their lives, so support their relationship with your ex and never make them a go-between or speak negatively about your ex in their presence. Always work out questions, changes and conflicts directly with your ex.
- Look to the future – You may still have hard feelings about your past with your ex, but you need to put them aside when it comes to co-parenting. Focus on building a new future for your family.
- Stick to the schedule and rules – Your children need stability and predictability, especially after a major change like a divorce. Agree on logistics and even having consistent rules and bedtimes between houses. Of course, emergencies will come up and you will have to be flexible, but make consistency your goal.
- Be sensitive to transitions – You may be excited to see your child during your parenting time, but remember that your child also has to say goodbye to the other parent. Help them anticipate and prepare for these transitions ahead of time and be sensitive to their need to process the change.
- Resolve your conflicts – If problems start appearing, do not wait to resolve them. Children will sense anger and resentment between you and your ex and may internalize those feelings. Discuss the issue away from the children and use good communication skills, such as “I” statements, really listening to the other person and treating them with respect.
Could a parenting coordinator help?
If you and your ex are having trouble working out a positive parenting plan, the court may decide to appoint a professional parenting coordinator to help you resolve problems and find long-term approaches you can both use during co-parenting moving forward. These coordinators may be either mental health professionals or attorneys. You can always choose to use a coordinator on your own, before the court becomes involved, in order to help your family transition into its new routine.