Ending a relationship can be hard when you have no dependents. Ending a relationship when you have kids? That’s some next-level difficulty and it can be an incredibly daunting prospect.
However, it doesn’t have to be hard and it doesn’t have to get legal. There are some key ways you can approach co-parenting with your ex that don’t involve tears and trauma.
The most important thing you can do is keep your children’s wellbeing at the front of mind for all times. Whenever decisions are being made or arguments are being had, ask yourself – ‘Is this what is best for my child?’. Chances are you’ll be able to see the situation with a bit more clarity if you have that question front of mind at all times.
Tips for Co-Parenting with your Ex
Below are a number of tips and tricks you can trial when navigating the sometimes choppy waters of co-parenting. These suggestions won’t apply to all relationships so take what you need and leave the rest. If you’re so inclined, you can offer some of your own ideas in the comments.
If you can, try to avoid long and drawn out phone conversations. This is where things can often become heated. A great way to communicate is through a ‘communication book’ that you can both write in. This will make the day-to-day communications easier and more straightforward. You could take a digital approach and communicate via email or an app like Wunderlist (a chore sharing app). Keeping your communication civil and polite is key here.
Have you thought about how things may change when there’s a new partner on the scene? The person whose wishes and interests you must respect the most is your child. This will be a difficult transition for them to make and they must be supported by you at all times.
Determine a timeline for when your new partner can meet and spend time with your child. Rather than introduce them straight away, take a gradual approach. Maybe you can all go to the park or somewhere else that’s fun and they can get to know your partner through play. In terms of ‘grownup sleepovers’, err on the side of caution. The last thing you want to do is cause the child discomfort or upset your relationship with your ex-partner. Slowly, slowly is the advice here.
Keeping That Connection
Allow your child to bear witness to the healthy aspects of your relationship with your ex. It will mean the world to them if they get to spend time with the two of you together. A picnic in the park or a dinner out at a sushi restaurant will make your child feel safe and secure as they see the way that the two of you have mutual respect for each other. It’s important to remember that you once loved your ex – look for the good inside them. It’s still there. Work towards being friendly and your child will surely benefit from a close, communicative and respectful relationship.
Role Modelling Behaviour
Watch your words. Watch your tone. Watch the way you speak to and about your ex in front of your child. The potential for discord and hurt feelings is definitely there if you yell and scream at each other in front of your children. If you feel like you’re about to burst, look for a way to leave the situation and return to it later after you’ve both calmed down.
Use your communication tools to air your concerns or worries early on. Try to remove personal language from it (eg. “You always do this”) and focus on the question posed at the start of this article. “What is the best for my child?” If you can work together as a solid unit from the start then you need to air your concerns in a pleasant, friendly manner that is open to negotiation. It’s important to be fair and reasonable – you’re not going to get your own way all the time so don’t be put out if there has to be give and take.
Keeping It Casual
Yes, there will be difficult issues you need to discuss. But choose the time and the place. Little ears are always listening and children often internalise discord as being their own fault. Be cautious of the topics you discuss in front of them. Things like child support and finances are better left between the two of you.
Children Are Not Weapons
This one is huge. Your child is not a weapon to be deployed. Point scoring, bad-mouthing the other parent and threatening things is not the way to position your child to be in a healthy mindset.
Co-Parenting With Your Ex
It can be done. Remember that your ex is a human with their own perspective. You split up for a reason BUT you got together for a reason in the first place. Try to hang onto that and forge a positive route ahead that the whole family can travel on.
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