As a newly divorced mother, you'll be faced with a vast array of challenges in raising your children, and even though you may have finalized your divorce and separated from your ex, it's important to keep in mind that your ex-husband is still the father of your children, and that means you'll need to maintain a healthy relationship with your ex moving forward — most importantly for the mental health of your children.
But you may ask, how can I expect to have a healthy co-parent relationship with my ex-husband when the two of us couldn't even agree on things while we were married? Well, you're not alone in asking that question.
Many divorcing couples wonder if they can possibly put aside their pain and work together for the good of the children. But the truth is, you will always be connected as parents to your children. And what that means is that you cannot walk away and never speak to each other again. On the contrary, you may find yourself in a position where you are forced to communicate more than ever.
Most parents truly want to do what is best for the children — despite their own feelings of hurt and resentment. But where do you start? How do you begin to forge a co-parenting relationship?
Here are six key steps to begin constructing a healthy co-parenting relationship with your ex-husband:
- Consider co-parenting a business relationship. In a professional setting, emotions take a back seat to the bottom line. Think of your family and realize that the stakes don't get any higher than the welfare of your children. It will take some practice, but think of how you conduct yourself with colleagues at work. You control your emotions and focus on the business at hand, because you know success can only come through professional conduct.
- Accept that things will sometimes be unpleasant. It's unlikely that a peaceful, cooperative relationship will come immediately after your divorce. The feelings are still raw, and many of the wounds have not yet healed. Instead, look to the long-term, and do whatever you can to transition so you can move beyond the pain of divorce. Remember, you want to focus your energy on your emotional health on your children.
- Be flexible. Pick your battles. You are in this parenting partnership for the long haul. Every issue does not require feverish debate. Even in areas where you might not have done so in the past, think compromise. What you may lose in control, you will win in peace of mind and stability for your children.
- Respect your former spouse as an important part of your child's life. Children deserve the best possible relationship with both their parents. Never undermine the connection your child shares with his other parent. At the same time, you have to let the other parent be responsible for building that relationship. Your former partner may not be the type of parent you want him to be, but that's you cannot control that. Don't get in the middle, unless you are concerned that serious harm could come to your children. You can, however, be supportive of your co-parent by providing suggestions and modeling appropriate parenting behavior.
- Try not to fight. Resist the urge to be combative by working hard to compartmentalize your feelings about your former spouse. Make a pact not to fight in front of your child and if either one of you becomes disrespectful end the conversation immediately.
- What's best for my child? Constantly ask yourself this question when you have to make a parenting decision. And be sure the answer is not clouded by thoughts about your divorce or your former spouse. Your primary objective has to remain focused on "What is in our child's best interest?" If you ask that first, your decision-making process will be clear and at its most effective.
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