Divorce is always more challenging for parents. When both can agree about general parenting philosophies the co-parenting process can be amicable and supportive between parents. However, when the divorce ends in acrimony, too often it leads to spiteful, high conflict parenting which can be extremely harmful to your innocent children.
Here are some insightful tips for providing support and stability for your children without becoming defensive or aggressive when you’re parenting after divorce with a jerk or a challenging co-parent at best.
1. Your Ex badmouths you to the kids and to others as well:
Everyone knows this is a big DON’T for divorced parents. However, it happens in divorced families every day. if your former spouse isn’t enlightened, you need to just let it go. If it happens around the kids, take your ex aside and request that they keep communication respectful when the kids are around. The truth is, you have no control over how they behave. But you can control how you let it affect you. Stop being concerned about what they think and focus instead on your own life and well-being. Your kids will appreciate your taking the high road, especially over time. And it’s more liberating and empowering for you!
2. Your Ex is a poor co-parent, very apathetic regarding the kids:
If your former spouse doesn’t step up to their parenting responsibilities toward the kids don’t waste time trying to change or shame them. If they’re not interested in helping with parenting decisions and rarely show up at events for the kids, just let it go. We cannot change anyone except ourselves. So keep up your own positive parenting and move on with your life. Your kids will appreciate you even more.
3. Your Ex is a poor communicator or, quite antagonistic:
When verbal communication doesn’t work between you and your Ex, try putting everything in writing. Email works. Better still are one of the online shared parenting scheduling tools. I like CoParently.com. They provide valuable resources designed to reduce conflict and confusion. They are also open for attorneys, therapists and other professionals to peek in, reducing miscommunication and misunderstandings while putting both parties on their best behavior.
4. Your Ex is irresponsible regarding visitation, promises and more:
Use an online co-parenting tool such as CoParently.com to keep a log of missed appointments and dates with the kids. Documentation will serve you well should you need to go back to court. Plus it serves as a conversation starter in discussing this problem directly with your Ex or with a therapist or coach in on the conversation. Sometimes the accountability will bring them more in line.
5. You or your Ex use the kids as spies, messengers or confidants:
This damaging game divorced parents play turns children into pawns. It also puts enormous pressure on them, which can lead to guilt, confusion, anxiety and shame. Let your kids develop a healthy, positive relationship with their other parent. Don’t share adult content with your kids, no matter how tempting. They can’t process it or fix your situation. Respect your kids’ boundaries as individuals and don’t probe and prod for information they’re not comfortable sharing. Remind your kids they don’t have to answer probing questions about life at home with you. They can just say, “I don’t want to talk about that.”
6. Your child doesn’t want to visit their other parent’s house:
When your child, especially a teen, starting grumbling about visitation issues or how their other parent runs things at their home, be caring and attentive. But don’t step in. This is an opportunity for you to show your children how to speak up for themselves and express their feelings. Teach them effective and respectful communication skills. So be supportive, role play the conversation if they’d like, but don’t do it for them. They’ll gain great value from this experience in thoughtfully speaking their mind.
Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right as well as coaching services and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting, go to: www.childcentereddivorce.com.