Navigating the pitfalls of raising kids with your EX is vitally important for the well being of your children.
Listen, having been both raised by divorced parents and raised my kids with my EX, I understand what challenges may potentially exist.
Being a parent is a tough job at the best of times, now factor in the mixed bag of emotions that develop after a break up and you can spend the next 18 years in a hellish fight that sucks every last nickel you have OR you can raise well developed kids who are successful, contributing members of the community.
Kids don’t come with an instructional manual, so your life as a parent can often feel like a frustratingly endless series of trials and failures.
Things get even harder if you’re trying to co-parent with an ex-wife or ex-husband. Your marriage might not have worked out, but the fact that you have a child together means there is some interaction and communication necessary.
Raising kids with your ex can come with a lot of pitfalls and dangers; the good news is that it can be done!
Here is some valuable advice to cling to as you try to co-parent with an ex:
Set boundaries – When you break up, there are certain parts of your lives that are no longer intertwined like they once were. You need to learn that your ex’s activities are none of your business until they affect your child. Boundaries are healthy and required for the both of you to heal from your break-up.
Know what’s important to you both – Your priority may be education while your ex may want to focus more on life skills or outdoor adventures. You may want your child to take extra-curricular classes while your ex would rather let them run free. Talk together to find out what you both want, then find a way to reach a compromise you’re both happy with. It shouldn’t be that one of you is the “fun” parent and the other is the “strict” one. There will always be discrepancies in discipline and rules of each household, but you should both uphold the things you’ve agreed on together.
Respect each other – This is critical for a healthy co-parenting situation! If you insult or speak negatively of your ex, it will have a negative effect on your child. Just because you’re not together anymore, that doesn’t mean you should stop showing them respect. Your marriage has nothing to do with your relationship with your child—don’t bring the kid into your issues with your ex!
Encourage that relationship – You may not want to have anything to do with your ex, but you should always encourage your child to have a relationship with their father or mother. Make it a priority to nurture that relationship, especially if you’re the one that has the child most of the time. You want your child to feel loyal to both of you, and they should never feel like they have to choose one of you over the other.
Keep the conflict away from the kids – Unfortunately, there is going to be some friction as you try to figure out how to raise the children. You may not agree with his method of discipline or her method of organizing the kids’ day. Whatever the case, you can expect some conflict. However, NEVER let it show to the kids. If you’re going to argue, do it where the kids can’t overhear you. You want to present as united a front as possible, as that is the only way your children will feel any sort of stability. If you’re going to fight, keep the arguments away from your kids.
Make sure your child feels loved – It’s going to be a tough time for your child, as they will likely feel some instability and insecurity due to your being separated. To help the child through it, make sure to give them more of your time than ever, and make that time quality. Disconnect your phone so you can focus on being with them and doing something fun. Don’t go so far that you’re spoiling the child, but make sure they know that they are your #1 priority.
Communicate primarily about the child – You’re probably carrying a lot of emotional baggage from your marriage which can require a lot of mental strength and it’s far too easy to get sucked into arguments and fights when you start talking. Keep your communication all about your child/children, and leave everything else in the past.
Stop worrying about your ex – You can’t control how they interact with or parent your children, so stop trying! You can communicate your expectations, but there is nothing that forces them to live up to your standards. Throw your energy into being the best parent you can be and let your ex make their own choices.
Find a way to keep both partners informed – Your child is going to have any number of sports events, school events, and life events that both of you will want to attend. Try to find a way to keep both partners informed and updated on those events. For example, set up a shared calendar on Google Calendar or Apple Calendar, and input all the important dates with plenty of advanced notice. That way, the both of you can be present, but it will require minimal communication between the two of you—the calendar will take care of it.
Parenting with an ex can be tough, it can be done. It’s all about getting accustomed to the new way of doing things. Focus on dispassionate communication, compassion and a desire to be a better person. For the sake of your kids, it’s worth the effort!