15 Sep 5 Truthful Tips to Being a Co-Parent Superstar
Child custody is the most contentious part of the post-divorce relationship you have with your ex-spouse. You still have to parent with your ex, only now your relationship is completely different and filled with all sorts of emotional baggage (in most cases). The co-parenting relationship you will have is the most important relationship you have aside from your relationship with your children. In order to make that relationship work, I’ve put together this handy little list of tips that tells you with a firm hand and a dose of love, how to be a good co-parent.
Now, before you get all pissed off and defensive with something like “But my ex is a nightmare! You don’t understand.” Yes, every co-parenting relationship is different. I know this. These are general tips for everyone to try (kindergartners can do it, they’re that basic).
How To Be A Good Co-Parent
- Don’t be an asshole.
Seriously. Go back to the rules your mama taught you and just be a polite, kind person. Don’t keep poking the bear by picking fights and making childish, rude comments. This helps no one. You are now divorced. Let go of the emotional baggage you’ve carried over from your marriage. This is a new, co-parenting relationship, start fresh. You can feel all the feelings you want about your ex, but when you are communicating with them, treat them like you’d treat an acquaintance. Be polite. This is NOT easy for everyone, I get it. Think of every interaction as a business transaction. If that doesn’t work for you, do it for the kids and put on your best Oscar worthy performance. Your example will directly affect their well-being after the divorce and they will thank you later in life.
- If it didn’t bother when you were married, don’t let it bother you now.
Yes, there are things are about our exes that drove us crazy when we were married to them. We rolled our eyes when they left their underwear on the floor when they shoved their hands in their pants while watching TV, the way they say “Picante sauce” instead of salsa (“Get a rope”) or stink up the bedroom after a night of drinking. I’m not talking about those things here. I’m talking about things like being chronically late, the way they communicate, doesn’t actively listen, etc. Things you let slide when you were married even though they were annoying. Do NOT start making issues out of the things you let slide when you were married now that you’re divorced. That’s not fair. You knew your ex had those tendencies or habits or character flaws, whatever you want to call them, do not take issue with them now. So don’t be shooting your ex a nasty text when they’re 10 minutes late if that’s how they’ve always been. Bottom line: know those annoyances will still be there and deal with it.
- Don’t badmouth your ex in front of your children.
Okay, yes, this seems VERY obvious and basic. But you’d be amazed at how many people do this! Passive aggressive badmouthing is the biggest offense here and if you think your kids don’t pick up on it think again. Kids are perceptive and smart. How many times have you been talking to a friend about an adult issue and you think your kids are playing, not paying attention to your conversation then WHAM! Your kid is right next to you asking questions about your conversation in very good detail. Yep, they heard it all. Those little sponges soaked it all in! Here’s the deal. I don’t care how big of a douche your ex is, if he/she is an involved, caring parent, he is your kid’s dad. Kids identify themselves with their parents. So every time you speak ill of their mom/dad, your kid feels you’re saying the same thing about them. My therapist told me that in one of our sessions and I hear her in my head every time I want to gripe about my ex. No matter how frustrated you are with your ex, calling them names, mumbling things under your breath, speaking poorly of them in front of the kids makes you look like the bad person. Period. You’re saying something hurtful about their dad/mom who they love unconditionally, and it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, in their eyes, you are the one behaving badly.
And if your ex IS a douche, your kids will figure it out eventually on their own. Remember the sponge thing?
- Don’t badmouth your ex to people in your community.
Talking badly about your ex in front of your children is the cardinal rule when it comes to badmouthing your ex, but doing it to innocent bystanders in your community is big too. Your neighbors, parents on your kids’ soccer team or dance class do NOT need to hear about all of the grievances you have with your ex either. They are not involved in your divorce or co-parenting relationship, have no stake in your situation and might really like your ex. Instead, be supportive of your ex. Speak fondly of them, and if you have nothing nice to say, (say it with me) say NOTHING at all. It really makes you look bad in the eyes of the community when you’re running around town spouting off about your ex. And guess what? NO ONE REALLY CARES! So, when you need to vent about your ex, keep it to your close friends that you trust and are invested in your life and people in the community won’t want to run the other way when they see you coming.
- Be Flexible.
When you get divorced, a custody agreement is put into place. You might share 50/50 custody where you rotate every other week with the children, you might have a 2-2-3 rotation or something else that you’ve agreed upon. The guidelines are put into place to ensure each parent shares in the child rearing and enjoys quality time with the kids. Most of us follow the agreements as they are laid out and all is good in the world. Occasionally, LIFE HAPPENS! And when life happens, in order to ensure all remains happy in the land of co-parenting, you need to be flexible. Sometimes, you might need to change weekends so you can head out of town for your girls’ weekend, a work event takes place on a night that you have the kids or you have a friend in town visiting. Whatever the reason, there are times you want or need to switch nights, weekends or hours that you have the kids and need your ex-spouse’s help with that. And vice versa. Your ex will help sometimes too. There are times one of you is running late, needs to leave early, etc. So, be flexible. Each of you will need to make changes to the schedule occasionally, so please, just be flexible, understand that life happens and roll with it. Nothing but resentment and returned inflexibility will be given in return if you aren’t flexible when situations arise. Don’t be a doormat but be flexible and work together.