Love Your Kids MORE than you HATE your ex: The challenges of co-parenting after divorce

Co-parenting is a relationship that no one plans for.

No one plans for it because it isn’t much fun. In most cases it means you have to work with someone that you couldn’t make a romantic relationship work with.  Now, not only do you still have to stay in contact with your ex, but you have to share finances, your children’s attention, your schedule…

But, here’s the key: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU!  It’s not about your ex either. It’s not about who’s fault it is the relationship didn’t work, or who is dating again, or how terrible the step-parents are, or wh0 won the child support battle or what the support money was spent the money on.

It’s about the kids.

That’s it. Just the kids.

And here’s the thing: Your kids love both of you.

They love mom.  They love dad. They don’t really care why the marriage ended (at least not usually).

Here’s the next thing.  Your kids need both of you.

Regardless of your views on gender or the role of a father or the role of a mother or the equality of both.  Your kids need two adults that love them and take care of them and teach them what they know.  Your kids need to know the source of their DNA.  They also need to know what is good from each half.  You may not like your previous-better-half, but guess what… that no-longer-better-half… is still half of your kids. When you tear apart your ex, you are tearing apart your kids.

So, Love your Kids more than you Hate your Ex.

If you’re with me this far, then here are some things to consider when you are managing the co-parent relationship.

  1. Rules change between houses.  Accept it.
    • Now, I know consistency is a good thing when it comes to raising kids. And it is.  However, even in happy, healthy, nuclear families, one parent is always going to be softer than the other. This is going to be even more the case when you are in separate houses.  Be consistent when you can, but there is nothing wrong with saying “different houses have different rules”. (Side note… this can actually teach your child to have more flexible thinking).
  2. Check out what the kids are saying.
    • Again, in a house where both parents live together, any child worth being called a child will try to play one parent against the other.  This is normal, and it will happen even more in a split household because there is way more opportunity.
    • To deal with this, first follow rule #1. Set the rules that work in your house and stick to them.  Second, check out what your kids are saying.  Nothing will get to the truth faster than when you say something like “let’s give your dad a call and find out if he really does let you stay up until 3am on a school night eating a pound of gummy bears”.
    • Where possible, talk with you ex about differences, but if you cannot come to terms, then go back to rule #1.
  3. It doesn’t matter how wrong your ex is, never let your kids hear you lay blame.
    • I promise you, as much as you blame your ex, your ex is blaming you. If the kids hear these one-sided arguments, then they will get lost in trying to figure out how to manage the idea that they should trust their parents, but what to do when one parent says “don’t trust the other parent”?  This might be one of the biggest issues that has children turn away from their divorced parents as they go through the difficult teen years. If they don’t know who to trust, they will end up trusting no one.

Check out this article on care.com for more things to think about.

You can also consider counselling either alone or even with your ex to help negotiate some of the issues that develop.  Counselling with your ex may seem like a lost cause, but consider the fact that your ex will be around for as long as your kids are (it doesn’t end when they turn 18 by the way) and perhaps decide if you want to find a way to have some peace.

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