Going through a divorce can bring the worst out in a couple. When it feels like your world is falling apart, trying to co-parent with someone who has hurt you deeply can be overwhelming. Learning to do this while you’re struggling to simply keep going won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible.
Use the five strategies below to start effectively
co-parenting with your ex.
1. Focus on the Children
Maintain the focus on what’s best for your children. You can do this by working with your ex to create as much structure, stability and consistency as is possible. Even though your romantic partnership didn’t work out, you can both learn to work together to provide as peaceful a home as possible for your children.
If you don’t agree with all the decisions your ex makes about what goes on in his home (ie. type of meals they eat, screen time limits, etc), try focusing instead on providing them loving stability and structure in your home to help ease them through this time of transition.
2. Communication is Essential
As you go through your divorce, your communication with your ex will inevitably suffer. It may be difficult to communicate with them; you may not want to talk to, or hear from, your ex. However, it’s important that communication regarding the children is maintained, and that your children are not used as messengers (i.e., “Tell your father you have a recital on Friday.”) Communicate directly with your spouse, finding creative ways to communicate to avoid conflict if necessary (text, email, letters, etc.)
3. Just the Facts
If you’re harboring resentment or have unfinished emotional business with your ex, the desire to express your emotional needs can feel overwhelming. Make a commitment to yourself that for the sake of your children’s well being, when you interact with your ex in their presence, you’ll keep conversations polite and focused on the issues (ie. I will be by to pick the kids up at 4pm).
4. Expect Change
As you go through your divorce, there will be a great deal of change for yourself, your ex and your children. Change is difficult for everyone. Some of the most important things a parent can do during this time of transition is to answer questions as they come up, help kids name and express their feelings and validate that their feelings make sense.
As a parent you can pay particular attention to see if anger, fear/worries, anxiety or overachieving/performing start showing up more often than before in your child. This can happen soon after the changes have been put into place, but might not be evident for some time. Take these as cues that you need to check in with your child and explore what might be going on for them.
5. Prioritize Your Health
Maintaining your health is important not only for you, but for your children as well. Having a healthy, happy, rested parent will help them adjust. They are reading your emotional cues and learning from you about how to get through a crisis.
As a parent you help your child learn about their emotions and how to regulate them. This can be a tough job, especially if your kids are having a hard time adapting to the changes that have taken place. Learning how to find your own sense of emotional balance first is so important. This article has some helpful suggestions that you might find useful.
Therapy can also be a very helpful support to help you though this transition. Through counselling you can learn helpful skills and tools to help with both the emotional impact of your divorce and some practical tools to help make the transition smoother.
Finding a ‘New Normal’
As we go through a divorce, we mourn the relationship lost, and the dreams we had of the future. Although your ex is no longer your partner, your ex is still your child’s parent, and you will always be co-parents of the children you have together. Learning to get along and communicate will bring comfort to your children as they learn to cope with their parents’ divorce.
HELPFUL RESOURCES FOR SEPARATION/DIVORCE AND CO-PARENTING IN HALIFAX
The Co-Parenting Handbook: Raising Well-Adjusted and Resilient Kids from Little Ones to Young Adults through Divorce or Separation by Karen Bonnell is a great book for adults
Two Homes by Claire Masurel is a great book for children
Family Law Nova Scotia is a website with helpful resources
Legal Info Nova Scotia is also a great website