Today, more than 50 percent of parents are raising their children with their ex. Whatever went down between you and your former partner, if you have kids in the mix, you must develop an amicable relationship (if you don’t have one already) to make sure your child’s needs are being met. Unless there are instances of domestic violence or substance abuse, it’s best for the child that both parents have an active role in their lives. Putting aside any long-standing issues and working together as co-parents, while easier said than done, has shown a decrease in levels of depression and anxiety in children whose parents are no longer together.
This can often be the most challenging issue coparents face based on the history of their relationship. When tensions run high, it may not be possible to communicate verbally with your former partner. You may find that putting everything in writing is your best bet, particularly when your co-parent changes truths or events to benefit themselves. Keeping everything in writing leaves a record so you can both fact check. It can also be easier to walk away from an argument taking place over text or email rather than over the phone or face to face. Most importantly, it’s unlikely your child will witness an uncomfortable interaction should important issues be discussed exclusively in writing.
Keep to the Schedule
Often parents will try to rearrange their child’s schedule to suit their own needs—this generally has an adverse effect on the child and sends a bad message to your co-parent. In a world where your kids have so few choices, not having a reliable schedule can be detrimental. Trying to change things on your co-parent sends a message of disrespect of that you believe your schedule and needs to be more important than theirs. This can result in a lot of resentment, particularly if the requests are continuous and consistent.
Keep it Positive
Speaking negatively about your co-parent in front of or to your child will cause lasting damage. Children are innately loyal to their parents. When those parents are at odds with each other, the child will feel confused with emotions they may not be mature enough to explain or cope with. Once the child learns of the truth of this pattern, they will learn to not trust the parent who is saying such things.
Keep in mind that your children are people as well. They are little people who are relying on you to make sure their needs are met. They should not bear witness to any arguments or negative talk. They are entitled to have a schedule and parents they can rely on. Set a healthy example for your children by modeling what a cooperative relationship looks like so they can learn to cultivate them in their own lives.
By Kerry Hart, LLMFT