This seems like such a simple question with an obvious answer, so why is it so hard for parents to separate how they feel emotionally about their ex from being the best co-parent they can be?
The biggest challenge is that you met this person, you fell in love with this person, had children and a life plan with this person and now you do not have that relationship any longer.
The intimate, loving connection you had as a couple is over.
You have to make the difficult shift to only being co-parents.
And all the issues that may have led to your divorce seem magnified now that you’re trying to parent in two homes.
You may not like what you’re seeing and hearing about what is going on in the other home.
You’re being told that you now have to stay on your side of the street and accept what you cannot change.
So here are some tips and reminders to help you shift from being a couple in a relationship to being co-parents even when you do not like your ex any longer:
Leave your anger “at the door.”
Although you may not literally be at your ex’s door during interactions, taking deep breaths and having a mantra that you use to diffuse the emotions can be helpful. In other words, keep your personal feelings to yourself. Remember, your children are watching every subtle and not-so-subtle action you take.
See your ex as your kids see them.
They may not have been a good spouse to you, but it’s important to recognize that if your kids are excited to see the other parent, then you should be excited. It’s not about you. Focus on things you liked about your ex and point that out to your kids.
If you need to vent, don’t vent to your children.
Vent to a friend or someone who has been in a similar place and has been able to move on in the best interest of the children. A coach who specializes in co-parenting can also be helpful.
Look at the other person as being a parent, not through the lens of being your ex-spouse.
This is where holding space for your kid’s experience is valuable. Take the high road and let your kids know that both parents love them and always will. Remember that they are biologically both of you so if you bad mouth the other parent, ultimately your children are going to emotionally be affected by this.
This thought process of truly loving your children more than you dislike your ex takes time, acceptance, and awareness that things have changed. Honor the strength of both parents. Shift your focus to who you want to show up as and what you want your children to say about how you showed up through this process.
Ask yourself how much is my reaction about my kids and how much is about myself?
This does not mean you agree with your ex-spouse on all the decisions, but remember to keep the focus on what is best for your children.
Things are constantly changing…nothing is permanent so keep in mind that small issues can seem huge today, but fairly meaningless a year from now.
Consider being flexible and having a Plan B. Your kids will love you for that!
If you find you’re not able to manage co-parenting because your ex is too high-conflict, angry, or uncooperative, reach out for help.
I have tools and strategies for you so that you can parent and move on with the wonderful next chapter in the life you and your family deserves!