How To Be A Good Parent To Your Kids When Co-Parenting With An Ex

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How To Be A Good Parent To Your Kids When Co-Parenting With An Ex

Let’s face it, co-parenting can be difficult.

I mean, things ended with this person for a reason, right? This means that you likely had a really hard time communicating, sharing values, not scratching each other’s eyes out with a can opener at every disagreement… And now?

Navigating the murky waters of being a good parent is difficult enough, but when you add co-parenting with an ex into the mix, it's even tougher.

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While you may not always agree with your ex-spouse on all of their decisions, you know this isn’t about you. This is about your kids, and while you may not be together, you’re going to figure out exactly how to work together.

You may not have been able to make your relationship work, by God you’re gonna make your breakup — and co-parenting — work.

And here’s how you’re gonna do it:

1. Put the children at the center, not in the middle.

Remember that every single time you defy your ex or make a unilateral decision, you are putting your children in the middle of your mess.

You may be mad post-breakup — you may even be really justified in being mad — but putting your feelings at the center puts your kids in the middle.

With every turn, ask yourself, “Is this really in my children’s best interest?” If the answer is “No,” take a deep breath and move on.

2. Put the problem out in front.

Often, when you're arguing over something, what you're actually doing is putting the problem between you. When you're struggling to communicate about your children, that issue is your kids.

Imagine you and your ex are each holding onto one of your children’s arms, pulling in opposite directions. You’d never do that right?

But that’s exactly what you’re doing when you argue over co-parenting.

Instead, imagine together putting your child in front of you, then standing shoulder to shoulder, examining the issue at hand, as a team. That’s what effective co-parenting should look like.

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3. Don't make unilateral decisions.

Remember that you are 100 percent a parent, and that means your ex is, too. If you're lucky enough to be divorcing someone who is involved and shares custody and expenses and all that good stuff, then they get an equal say in all decisions.

So, when you think it’s time to wean your son off his pacifier, you don’t get to do that without discussing it with your co-parent and coming up with a plan together.

4. Always present a united front.

When children of divorce realize their parents don’t get along, they will often use that information in a power-play. They don’t do this consciously or maliciously; they’re just picking it up from you.

But if they know that while Mommy and Daddy may be divorced but they are still unified in their parenting, children will feel safer and more secure.

Saying simple things like, “Mommy and Daddy/Mommy and Mommy/Daddy and Daddy have had a conversation about this, and we have decided that XYZ is best,” will teach your kids that they can’t pit you against each other.

Moreover, they will feel confident and secure knowing that the rules apply to both parents.

5. Ask yourself, “Would I rather be right, or happy?”

Sometimes you lose the little battles in favor of the bigger picture, and that’s OK. Give up your scorecard and recognize that overall, what’s really best for your kids is that they have parents who love them and support each other’s parenting.

If your ex keeps them up late on a Tuesday night and they’re tired on Wednesday afternoon, it’s not the end of the world. You may be absolutely categorically right in your argument, but working together and letting the little things go will make you a much happier parent — and person — overall.

Remember, you don’t have to like your ex, or agree with every decision they want to make. But you do have to work together — at least till your youngest is eighteen.

Even then, probably longer, because marriages and grandkids and all that — so wouldn’t it just be better if you worked together and made this as smooth as possible?

It takes less energy to be nice and collaborative than it does to be mean and oppositional. At the end of your life when you look back, ask yourself what you want to remember.

After all, it’s just a choice.

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Kate Anthony, CPCC is a certified life coach who specializes in co-parenting, separation and divorce. If you are a divorcing mom, check out Kate's website for all the help you need.

This article was originally published at Kate Anthony. Reprinted with permission from the author.