Relationships are hard, but divorce can be much harder. As an ugly beast filled with a wide-range of emotions and a dose of bitterness, divorce can present some frustrating challenges for couples — like co-parenting.
While both parents are often caught in a cycle of retaliation due to the mental and emotional harm each has inflicted on the other due to doubt, irreconcilable differences or infidelity, they often don’t understand how their actions can actually affect their child’s life.
A report from CBS News found children living in single-parents homes marred by divorce were not only twice as likely to develop serious psychiatric illnesses and addictions later in life, but were more likely to feel insecure, unloved and unimportant.
Though divorce might be the only solution for some couples, there are several ways to effectively co-parent without life getting crazy. We might look towards celebrities as models who undergo starry steps for ‘conscious uncoupling,’ but the key is to be effective role models to your children in the most hostile of relationships for the betterment of their positive environment.
Leave your new partner (and friends) out of it
Until all those hard feelings subside, leave the co-parenting to the parents — that means, leave your partner, friends or parents out of it too. For example, getting your new husband to send an email to your ex-husband about issues pertaining to the kids can result in unnecessary hostility.
Not only will parents feel threatened by their newfound replacement, but it can also provoke frustration that leads to arguments and a lot of tension. Moreover, don’t involve your parents and friends in helping you make decisions. Only you and your ex know what is best for your child.
Set the intention of a compassionate co-parenting relationship
Divorced couple, Victoria Baldwin and Adam Dyson made headlines last week when their co-parenting photoshoot went viral on the Facebook page, ‘Love What Matters.’ Before divorcing in 2015, the two agreed to reunite every year for a family photo to prove to their 4-year-old, Bruce that his parents will always care about each other despite not being together.
“[Bruce] will grow up to see respect, kindness, empathy, compassion, perseverance, flexibility, and even sacrifice being modeled by both of his parents,” Baldwin said. “And he will know it is possible to fall out of love but never fall apart.”
In an interview with PEOPLE, Baldwin says it’s important to make an effort to always include your ex even if it stings, adding that it might make you cringe, but your child will thrive because of it and parents must make the sacrifice.
Find effective methods of communication
The issue so many couples face with the term “co-parenting” is that it suggests effective communication and cooperation — and if you don’t have it, you’re hurting the children. Many think relying on phone calls and texts is easier for instant communication, but it actually makes it easier to argue. Things not only get lost in translation, but they end up creating cause for doubt and contempt. Talk it out with your ex, face-to-face, and find something suitable for the two of you. Email and postal mail work well for non-urgent issues and because of the delay in response, helps to curb that emotional reaction.
Moreover, accept what you cannot control and recognize that sometimes the best communication is minimal communication. Relay the most important information when necessary, and make sure you don’t block or withhold anything when it comes to your child’s best interests.
Never argue in front of the children
When you get divorced, one of the things that usually lacks most often between divorced couples is patience. After years of putting up with them and finally getting to that point of no return, patience is one thing that becomes harder with each coming day. But while you two might not always agree and are not the best of friends anymore, you are connected through your child — and that means respect needs to be mutual.
No matter how much you two might detest one another or how angry you feel towards your ex, you must ensure that your children never see it. Be civil with one another when you are with your children and keep those disagreements and arguments far from them.
Learn how to forgive and move on
It’s a long road ahead and no one is the ‘better parent,’ but you can both be winners over time if you learn to forgive each other and move on for the sake of the children. Co-parenting might seem like a mushy word, but it’s a reality for so many couples and the first step is through forgiving each other. Aside from helping you to fully heal from the pain of divorce, it enables you both to set an example stemmed in respect and compassion.
Additionally forgiveness helps you to move from one relationship to the next. If you are continuously focusing on the wrong, there is no way to move forward. Let your kids be a motivating factor for a healthier future together.
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What are some tips you and your ex-spouse effectively co-parent? Share with us in the comments below.