It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, the mom or the dad role…you may find yourself trying to co-parent with someone that you don’t see eye to eye with.
I’d love to say that there is an easy solution. I can waive my magic wand and your ex will be cooperative and work with you to make good decisions in the best interests of the kids…OR maybe it would be easier for me to just make a movie about it instead.
What people forget is that even if you were still together you and your ex would have disagreed about parenting issues. How you handled them would have been different though.
Without a vested interest in the relationship there is little room for open discussion and compromise. The relationship is still there but has changed. Many people have trouble going through a break up and transitioning the relationship from lovers and confidants to co-parents and potentially friends. Break ups and the process around them often leads to distrust, anger and frustration. When a parent can’t get past these emotions they tend to stay stuck in a negative place where the focus does not transition to the new parenting relationship. It stays focused on the negative – revenge or hurting the other parent remains their focus.
Here are 5 tips that will help you survive parenting with an uncooperative ex.
- Stay on the right side of the argument. Don’t match the tone, anger and frustration of the other parent. Stay focused on the issue and do not allow your ex to take the focus off of the children. You can only control your actions and reactions, ensure that you are comfortable with your handling on an issue.
- Use professionals when needed. Mediators, counsellors, lawyers and the courts sometimes need to be involved. There is no shame in asking for help. Sometimes just having a neutral person in the process can help you with moving forward on issues.
- Pick your battles. I can’t stress this enough. If you have broken up and you are both still in the children’s lives they will have 2 different lives. You will not agree with every action that the other parent takes. A good rule of thumb is to answer these questions? Will it matter tomorrow? Will the kids remember the issue in 6 months to a year? In the grand scheme of things nit picking on the smaller issues will make it much more difficult to discuss the larger, more important issues in the future. If something is important to the other parent and they are happy to take on the expense, time and responsibility for it, let them. Even if you don’t see it as important. You will want the same flexibility offered to you at some point in time.
- Parenting Plans. Make sure that you have a comprehensive parenting plan. It is never too late to prepare one, even if you have been separated for a long time. If you have one – use it, it should be your guide to handling parenting issues and dispute resolution. If you don’t have one, create one. This is a valuable tool to help you navigate through the practical issues that arise.
- Involve the children…in a positive way. This is a bit of a controversial tip and it isn’t for everyone. Allow them a voice in the dispute. Common sense says that of course you should NEVER have the children involved in your divorce. I fully agree that children should not know the details or “adult” issues but in reality the children are impacted and involved as this affects their daily lives. An uncooperative parent in most cases will already have involved the children, placed blame on you and/or provided details of the issue to the children to try to get them onside. As much as you may not want them involved, the other parent may have already involved them and your role is to help them get out from being stuck in the middle. Speaking to your children at a high level and discussing age appropriate issues and information can help sometimes. “Would you like me to talk to your Dad about this issue?” “Do you want to talk to your Mom about why this is important to you?” “Can I tell Dad what you have told me?” “I’m going to talk to your Mom today about xyz and you know we don’t agree on what to do. We both love you and you shouldn’t worry, we will work something out. If Mom asks you about it just say it’s a big person problem and you don’t want to talk about it.”
There are no quick fixes, separating the relationship issues from the parenting issues is often difficult. You picked the person to have a child with or at the very least your actions have lead to you being in a position to have some kind of relationship with this person for a very long time. This doesn’t mean you have to like them, it just means that you have to parent with them.
Don’t pay attention to the TV shows that model the perfect post divorce family. The ex and their new spouse, along with his/her children live down the street and come over for Sunday dinners. Although I have seen it happen, it is certainly the exception – not the rule.
It will take work and in all honestly it may never happen…you may never be friendly, successful co-parents.
At the end of the day, make sure that you have no regrets about how you handled a situation and that you can look back years from now and know that you did the best job you could have being a parent.