Spring has finally sprung and it’s a lighter, warmer place full of new life - as we put those cold, grey drizzly winter months behind us, we find ourselves looking ahead with promise.
Divorce can feel a bit like this. And if you’re recently divorced then you might be feeling a huge sense of relief and finality combined with a sense of hope that your life can move on.
But what if you have children together? The prospect of how to successfully co-parent with your ex can feel daunting, but it needn’t.
Yes, divorce can be tough on both parents and their kids, and yes, it changes the way a family looks. But it doesn’t have to destroy it.
It is widely recognised that children whose divorced parents work well co-parenting together will thrive. Supportive shared parenting creates a vital foundation for children, offering them stability, security, consistency and comfort.
Children growing up within such a solid co-parenting partnership tend to have a stronger ability to adjust to new situations more easily, can problem-solve more effectively and have better self-esteem in general. Furthermore, research shows they are likely to be emotionally and mentally healthier.
Although successful co-parenting may not be a walk in the park at times, the good news is it’s entirely possible and you don’t have to be celebrity ‘conscious uncouplers’ like Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow to do it!
The aftermath of a divorce can be a period of introspection and reflection which can create an opportunity to focus on yourself and review what you want from life, who you want to be moving forwards.
This can include how you choose to approach co-parenting your kids with your ex – this can be made easier by reminding yourself to always put the kids first.
Your divorce may have been difficult and painful, possibly still leaving you with feelings of anger or resentment that may be both valid and justified.
But now the relationship is officially ‘over’, it is no longer about you or your ex’s feelings; the issue of co-parenting is about your child’s happiness and well-being.
The most useful way to start co-parenting is to remove all previous perspective and readjust your view of the relationship with your ex as a ‘professional one’, a bit like your job.
You don’t have to love or even like this person, but you do need to work with them.
And, much like your job, co-parenting with your ex will have its challenges at the best of times. So, during those stressful or infuriating moments, try to pause and remind yourself how you’d interact with a work colleague – more often than not, you’d apply some of the rules below without even thinking.
New Rules: the top 10 basics
Now you’ve separated your previous personal relationship with your ex to a new co-parenting one, try to follow these simple tips as a guide to successful co-parenting:
- Acceptance of the new ‘status quo’ – Give yourself a reality check: accept the relationship is over; accept that your children love and need both of you; accept that you both have a role to play in raising your kids.
- Vent negative feelings elsewhere – redirect all hurt, anger and frustration: a family member, good friend, counsellor or therapist are good listeners; it’s ok to have these feelings but exposing your kids to them can be hugely destabilising and damaging.
- Negotiate, respect & support your ex – with your child’s best interest as the ultimate goal, consider how you would like to be treated yourself and project this towards your ex; aim for a more amicable way of working together.
- Don’t undermine or dis your ex in front of the kids – doing anything that results in your child being aligned with one parent over another can create confusion and conflict for them; despite how you might feel, learn to stay calm and in control.
- Be flexible & compromise – parents and kids get sick, meetings run late, traffic is bad, work emergencies, school issues, unforeseen circumstances…etc. No one can anticipate these things so try to be understanding, diplomatic and accommodating – it could happen on your watch!
- Communication effectively – whether it’s in person, by phone, text or e-mail, aim to keep your contact with your ex conflict-free and in the best interests of your child; consider your tone and use of words, be polite and keep ‘on topic’ i.e. child-focussed. Never use your kids as messengers.
- Create a parenting plan – it’s worth investing time and energy into working together to create an agreeable plan to cover things like school, health, discipline, behaviour, routines, rules and rewards, as it will pay dividends helping manage children’s expectations, create consistency, ease transitions and aid stability and security between homes.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff – so the routine might slip on holiday, your child might leave special toys at your ex’s, clothes might come home dirty – recognise it’s no biggie in the grand scale of things, just try to chill out and remember it’s all about what’s best for your child. Save your energy for bigger issues that may need handling.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help – co-parenting is rarely a breeze, even for couples who’ve had the most amicable of splits; many couples need some support and there is always help out there.
- Remember: always put the kids first!
Help & Support
At SH&Co we know that communication with your ex after a divorce can be tough, and that co-parenting is often hard work, requiring constant effort.
Sometimes, Family Mediation can help. A confidential and voluntary process, it can support and encourage you and your ex to reach your own mutually acceptable proposals relating to your children’s care, contact arrangements and parenting plans.
FREE Legal Advice
If you’re considering mediation, would like more information or simply to discuss your options, please contact us on 01606 48777 to book a FREE 30-minute appointment* or alternatively pop in to one of our 4 FREE weekly drop in-clinics (no appointment required).
*For all new Family Law clients.