Divorce is always more challenging for parents. When both can agree about general parenting philosophies the co-parenting process can be amicable and supportive. 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 tips for providing support and stability for your children when you’re parenting after divorce with a difficult co-parent – or an out and out jerk!
Your former spouse badmouths you to the kids – and others:
This is one of the big no-nos for divorced parents. But 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 your ex will behave. But you can control how it affects you. Stop being concerned about what they say and think. Focus instead on your own life and future. Your kids will appreciate your taking the high road. And it’s always more liberating and empowering for you!
Your co-parent is apathetic or indifferent regarding parenting the kids:
If your child’s other parent 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 appointments and events for the kids, it’s best to just let it go. We cannot change anyone except ourselves. So keep up your positive parenting and move on with your life. Your children will appreciate you even more.
Your ex just won’t communicate with you or is antagonistic when they do:
When verbal communication doesn’t work between you and your ex, try putting everything in writing. Email works well. Better still are one of the online shared parenting scheduling tools such as Our Family Wizard. These resources 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.
Your co-parent uses the kids as spies, messengers or confidants:
This is another damaging game divorced parents play. It turns children into pawns and puts enormous pressure on them which can lead to guilt, confusion, anxiety and shame. We want our kids to develop a healthy, positive relationship with their other parent. Don’t share adult content with your kids. 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 in sharing. When your ex breaks these boundaries, remind your children that 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.”
Your child isn’t happy with visitations at their other parent’s house:
When your child, especially a teen, starts grumbling about how their other parent runs things at their home, be attentive. But don’t step in. It’s better to show your children how to speak up for themselves to 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 the experience of thoughtfully speaking their mind.
Your ex is irresponsible regarding visitation, keeping promises and other commitments:
Use an online co-parenting tool such as Our Family Wizard 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 brought in on the conversation. Sometimes the accountability will bring your co-parent more in line.
Protecting your own and your children’s well-being is crucial for you as a divorced parent. The sooner you detach emotionally from letting your former spouse influence your state-of-mind, the better off you will all be. So focus on being the best parent you can be, and let go of the need to transform a co-parent who just doesn’t share your values — and probably never will.
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. Photo credit: adwriter / Modern Furniture / CC BY-NC