Divorce signals the end of your marriage, but your relationship with your ex-spouse never really ends if you have children.
You are no longer husband and wife, but you are co-parents, and limiting disagreements and working effectively is critical to aiding your children’s development. Of course, finding ways to get along isn’t so easy if there is a high amount of conflict in your relationship.
Here are several tips you might find helpful as you work to improve communication with your ex and form a healthy co-parenting relationship.
Treat your ex like a business partner.
You’ve likely had a co-worker who you didn’t necessarily care for and yet you still found a way to get along with them well enough to do your job. Start thinking about your relationship with your ex in the same terms.
When you communicate, keep things simple and don’t delve into personal matters regarding your relationship with her. There is nothing to gain from rehashing old arguments.
Your conversations should focus on matters affecting your children. Communicate directly and never use your kids as a go-between, which will only cause them more anxiety.
Don’t talk down about your ex around the kids
No matter how nasty your ex acts, never badmouth her in front of the children. That is still the mother of your children and you need to try as hard as you can to remain respectful. Your kids will appreciate you for it.
It’s understandable if you need to vent from time to time. But save that for a close friend, relative or counselor. Make sure there is no chance your kids overhear the conversation.
Don’t argue in front of the children
Similarly, never have an argument with your ex in front of your kids.
You should do whatever you can to keep communication civil and polite, however sometimes blowups are unavoidable. If you do have a disagreement, try to conduct it in private out of earshot from the children. While it might be difficult to swallow your pride, you are probably better off turning the other cheek.
It’s important to realize you are never going to change who your ex is. You likely learned this fact during the divorce process. So you are better off using your energy to figure out an effective way to work together since she is going to remain your co-parenting partner regardless.
If your ex insists on starting unnecessary arguments, it might be worth considering a parallel parenting arrangement to reduce the amount of contact you have with her.
Focus on what’s in your control
Something that is difficult for a lot of parents is coming to the realization that you can’t control what goes on in your ex’s household. As long as she is not putting the kids in any danger, you must learn to let go of any control issues you have.
Your parenting style might be different from the one your ex employs. That’s not the end of the world. Come to an agreement on basic things to ensure your children’s health and safety, but it’s OK if the two of you parent differently.
Focus on what you can control and let go of everything else. As with everything, a positive attitude is key.
Don’t complain to your ex
Even if you are on good terms with your ex, it is impossible to avoid the occasional disagreement. But you want to avoid airing a laundry list of complaints every time you talk.
You’ll foster better communication by acting respectfully. Think about how you would like her to approach you if you did something she disagreed with.
Instead of snapping, “Why has Billy been staying up so late?” at her, ask her calmly, “Hey, can we talk about Billy’s bed time? I’m worried he’s not getting enough sleep and it might be why his grades are slipping.”
Quiet your support system
Your support system is critical for helping you survive divorce and will remain important as you work to become a better co-parent. But they have no business getting mixed up in your co-parenting relationship.
Far too often a new spouse or grandparent or sibling will spout off about how you and your ex are handling your co-parenting relationship. That isn’t constructive and only causes trouble between you and your ex.
You and your ex are the parents. Your support system is your support system. They should be there to help you, not critique your co-parenting techniques.