These 6 tips will help you become a better co-parent despite how poisonous your ex is.
People call their ex toxic for a lot of different reasons — anger about the divorce, fear about their ex’s parenting abilities, abuse, narcissism, alienating the children, and addiction. This wide range of descriptions makes it really difficult to find reliable information about co-parenting with a toxic ex.
This confusion, on top of the already unwanted and tumultuous emotions of divorce, is the last thing you need.
Although the tips below will help you co-parent regardless of the poisonous nature of your ex, they will be most helpful if your toxic ex behaves poorly toward you (and, at times, your children).
(If your ex’s toxicity is due to something more severe, you may want to have more specific help. Here are some resources to help you get more pertinent information about co-parenting with an ex who was an abuser, an addict and a narcissist.)
1. Get clear about what’s most important to you as a parent.
The most important thing to any parent is taking care of their children. Putting your kids and their needs front and center will help you focus and more easily navigate the poor behavior of your ex.
2. Know what triggers negative reactions in your ex.
You probably hoped that once the divorce was final that you wouldn’t have to continue tip-toeing around your ex’s moods. But as long as you’re co-parenting with a toxic ex, you’ve got to be aware of what sets them off so you can have more control over how they will respond to you.
3. Only engage in communication about what’s important for raising your children.
It’s way too easy to get into conversations (or shouting matches) about unfinished issues from your marriage. Despite how painful and frustrating these issues are, they have nothing to do with parenting your children today — except making it harder.
4. Never speak negatively about your ex when your children are around.
Your kids love both their parents. If they hear you speaking poorly of your ex, they’ll start to feel that they can’t be honest about their feelings for their other parent when they’re with you. And that’s an unfair position to put them in.
5. Encourage your children’s relationship with their other parent.
Kids need both of their parents. And because your ex isn’t an addict or abuser there’s really no reason not to foster their relationship with their other parent.
6. Maintain appropriate boundaries around your personal life.
One of the most difficult parts of co-parenting is knowing what is and isn’t appropriate to share with your ex. The reason for this is because co-parenting requires a lot of communication to work. If you remember that what gets communicated is all about the kids, then it’s a bit easier to know where to draw the lines.
Starting a co-parenting relationship is really tough. You’re still struggling with the emotional upheaval of the divorce and yet you’re supposed to be able to keep all of those emotions out of parenting and build a new relationship with your ex. It’s natural for it to feel like you’re co-parenting with a toxic ex.
That’s why it’s important to know what kind of toxicity you’re dealing with. If you’re lucky enough to only have to deal with your ex’s (and your) very normal yet very unsettling emotional turmoil of divorce, then these tips will be just what you need to start taking the poison out of parenting with your kids’ other parent.
Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce coach. She works with clients who are struggling with co-parenting after divorce. You can join her anonymous newsletter group for free advice or schedule a FREE 30-minute conversation with Karen directly in her Time Trade calendar.
This article was originally published at Dr. Karen Finn's blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.