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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.


Click the following to return a directory of articles and resource videos on Kids, Family and Divorce.

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  • Comment Link Brittany Wednesday, 08 October 2014 15:33 posted by Brittany

    Im having a very hard time. My ex and i were never married but were together for 4 years and have 2 kids. He broke up with me a week n a half after our 2nd child was born. A month later the girl i caught him talking to at work while i was pregnant are dating. 2 months after we split he got her pregnant shes due march 3rd and my daughter turns 1 march 15th. He still tries to screw around with me even after i told his girlfriend he was cheating on her with me. When she got pregnant he told me that she would have to deal with the fact that me and our kids come before her bc we were here first. Now he is constantly telling me how in love they are and that she comes first bc shes only 19 and scared. But he says he wants to maintain a friendship bc everytime i try to just talk about the kids and nothing else he says im abandoning him and he cant do this without me. Im so hurt and confused i dont think i can do this. Please any advice would be great.

  • Comment Link Guest Thursday, 02 December 2010 09:43 posted by Guest

    Good point. Every year she: Good point. Every year she registers the kid (school is in her district, dad lives ten minutes away and has 50 percent custody) and promises to give his name. Every year she fails to do so. Every year dad goes to school office with copy of custody order and photo ID and gets his name added to student's file. Dad was primary caregiver for much of marriage (mom traveled for work) and has very strong relationship with kid. He is there for the good, the bad and the ugly -- a very engaged parent.

    By the way, "why does mom have to" share this information? Because: (1) it is the right thing to do, and (2) the divorce order requires her to.

  • Comment Link Wednesday Thursday, 02 December 2010 08:22 posted by Wednesday

    Why is it the first wife's: Why is it the first wife's job to give the school his contact info? Can the father not pick up the phone or stop by the office, or check the school calendar to see when events are scheduled?

    She may be bitter, as that is something that surely happens, but it also happens quite a bit that the first wife is demonized to the second one. And the second to the third....

    You may have a front-row seat, but you don't have a panoramic view of the whole playing field.

    These little tips may be wonderful when both parents WANT to be real parents. But often? One of them simply checks out of the responsibilities and then is pissed when they also miss out on the good stuff.

  • Comment Link Guest Thursday, 02 December 2010 01:25 posted by Guest

    Any first wife who asks these: Any first wife who asks these questions isn't the problem. The problem is the first wife who calls her former husband names, blames him for everything, shames him, calls him a terrible father, says she wishes she had never met him and he would now move to another continent, refuses to tell the school or extra-curricular activities his contact information, refuses to give him the name of the kid's doctor, lies to the kid about money, I could go on. These first wives are the problem, and they would never bother to ask themselves your six questions. After all, they are the blessed mother, so they are always within their rights. If you think I am making any if this up, I assure you I have had a front row seat for over four years, and every word is true.