After your divorce is complete, it should be a relief. Finally, the process is over and you can focus on starting a fresh chapter without your spouse. However, when you add children to that equation, the frustration might be just starting. Not only do you have to continue interacting with your ex-spouse, but it has to be amicable enough maintain a healthy environment for your child.
What do you need to do as a parent to provide your child with a positive outlook on your divorce and a healthy relationship with your ex-spouse?
Read on for the top ten tips on co-parenting after a divorce:
- Set feelings of hurt or betrayal aside. This sounds easier said than done, but it is key for maintaining a healthy environment to your child. It’s okay to be angry or hurt, but you do not have to let your feelings dictate your actions. Let your actions be motivated by what is best for your child-which is cooperating with your ex-spouse.
- Get your feelings out, but do not vent to your child. You will no doubt need to let out steam occasionally, but it’s important that you don’t badmouth your ex-spouse in front of your child. Your ex-spouse is still your child’s mother or father, and hearing you speak badly of them can be hurtful and confusing to them. Also, emotionally depending on your child in that way is too much pressure for them and may alter your relationship with them. Enlist the help of friends, family, or a counselor for help venting.
- Don’t trap your child in the middle. You should not let your child feel like they are being torn between you and your ex-spouse. You may always hold onto some resentment with your ex-spouse, but you need to compartmentalize those feelings for your kids. Never use your children as messengers between you and your ex, which would put them in the middle of your conflict. Try to communicate your ex yourself, because your child has the right to a relationship with the other parent free of your influence.
- Don’t use your child against your ex. At this point, you are adjusting to your new family dynamics and way of life. In addition, you are putting your old relationship with your ex in the past and developing a new one. There may be times when custodyissues arise and you and your ex have a disagreement. It is very important that you do not use your child as a bargaining chip when negotiating. This is confusing for your child and will likely cause a lot of resentment in the future from your child.
- Don’t “rescue” your child. When speaking to your children, allow them to express exactly how they are feeling. You may be tempted to ‘rescue your child by trying to fix any negative emotion they express. However, it is normal for your child to feel this way, and it is more important for you to validate your children’s feelings and let them know you are there for them no matter what.
- Be clear when communicating with your spouse. To avoid conflict, try setting a business-like tone, where you clearly define boundaries. A business-like tone also entails being cordial, respectful, and neutral. Be sure to listen to your ex, and communicate with them consistently.
- Improve your relationship with your ex-spouse. Maintaining a cordial relationship with your ex-spouse is in your child’s best interest. To keep a good relationship, you will want to check in with your spouse to ask their opinion on any issues. If necessary, you might want to take the high road and apologize.
- Be consistent. Having a consistent environment for your kids will help them feel comfortable and acclimate quicker. Have generally consistent rules and discipline tactics in both homes. You will also want to try for a regular routine or schedule for the child to get used to regarding school, meals, or bedtimes.
- Don’t introduce big changes to the family at this time. After having finally ended their unhappy marriage, some parents want to pursue new lifestyles and interests. Though this is fine, this isn’t a good time to implement these changes. Kids thrive on predictability, and the divorce itself was already a big change for them. Give them adequate time to get used to the divorce before making radical changes.
- Don’t rush a step-parent connection. Once you do introduce changes into your new life, you may want to introduce a step-parent to your children. Many kids want to rebel against a new