5 Co-Parenting Tips for When You and Your Ex Don't Get Along
When you and your ex have a contentious relationship, it can make parenting much more difficult. Whether you were married to your ex or not, splits can be emotionally difficult and may result in feelings of anger or resentment on either side. However, when a couple shares children, those differences need to be set aside for the good of the kids.
So, how can you co-parent when you and your ex don’t get along?
To start, there are things you can do to ease tensions and make it easier for you and your ex to get along. See below for a few tips about what you should and shouldn’t do to make co-parenting easier.
If you and your ex are both open and willing to communicate about your children, it will make parenting arrangements much easier. Avoid using your children as go-betweens and communicate directly with their other parent, either in person during drop-offs, over the phone, or via email. Choose which method of communication you think will work best and agree on that method with your ex.
If you are able to talk calmly without fighting in front of your children, speaking in person might be best. However, if you are not able to hold a polite conversation with one another, maybe opting for emails is best.
Also, don’t just discuss custody and logistics. If you can, try to share the good things to make communication a more pleasant experience for both of you. If you have the kids for a long weekend and you know your ex misses them, sending a photo or short message about what they’re up to could be a thoughtful move. Think about how you would feel in their shoes and try to mend fences by involving them in the good aspects of your children’s lives.
2. Be Consistent
Make sure you and your ex are on the same page as much as possible when it comes to parenting your children. Whether you have shared custody, primary, or visitation, it is important that you both present a united front. Having a very detailed parenting plan can go a long way to assist with this. (See this article by MI attorney Kim Schnuelle on what can be included in a parenting plan.)
When your children move from home to home it is especially important that you and your co-parent create less change for your children by adhering to the same rules in both households, if possible. If they go to one parent’s house and are permitted to say a certain “bad” word, but aren’t allowed to say that same word at the other parent’s house, it can set a confusing precedent. Following one set of rules can serve as a solid foundation for your children and can be less confusing.
Also, make sure you are always following through with whatever promises you make to your children. If you say you will spend the weekend with them, do not back out. If you promise to attend a soccer game, make sure you’re there. Not only is this good for your children, it will help your ex trust you and will make co-parenting more doable.
3. Do Not Let Your Children Get Caught in the Crossfire
When you and your ex are not getting along, whether it was an argument about your children or something else entirely, keep your children out of it. It is best for children to have an established relationship with both parents if at all possible. By arguing in front of your children or asking them to communicate to their other parent for you, you put them in the middle of your fight and jeopardize their relationship with both you and their other parent. This type of situation can cause children to feel stressed, trapped, and as if they need to pick a side.
Instead, handle your issues away from your children. Avoid badmouthing their other parent in front of them, or anywhere they may overhear you – and insist your friends and family to do the same. To keep your children from feeling trapped in the middle, do what you can to encourage your children’s relationship with their other parent. Let them know it is okay for them to talk about what they do at their other parent’s house, but don’t pry or pressure them. Allow your kids to express their feelings, whatever they may be.
4. Put Yourself in Your Ex’s Shoes
If you are having a disagreement, try to consider your ex’s point of view before arguing. Their choices and opinions may be different from your own, but if they have your children’s best interest at heart you should take a moment to consider their perspective. Whether your opinions clash over options for after-school care, health care options, or whether or not your kids should go to church, it is important that you try to respect your ex’s preferences and come to an agreement together. If you show your ex this courtesy, you are more likely to receive the same treatment in return.
5. Remember, Your Children Come First
When it seems impossible to get along and you and your ex are at one another’s throats, remember why you’re here. Do your best to set aside your differences for the sake of your children and see to it that they come first. Consider why you’re fighting and whether it has anything to do with the needs of your children. Avoid wasting your energy on meaningless arguments, and instead try to find a way to create a workable relationship with your ex to make a better, more peaceful life for your children.For help with your child custody issues, contact McKinley Irvin at our Washington office.