Co-parenting is tough. Somehow, you’re supposed to suddenly change how you think about your former spouse. You’re supposed to be emotionless toward them. You’re supposed to see them as a business partner in the business of raising your child(ren) and not as the person you thought you’d happily spend the rest of your life with.
Talk about a Herculean task!
With all of this pressure to heal and put your life back together going on at the same time you’re learning how to co-parent, it’s natural that you and your co-parent are going to run into trouble communicating now and again.
So, learning how to discuss co-parenting problems when they arise and without the discussion turning into a battle is one of the most important skill you can develop as you create your new life after divorce.
These 5 tips will help you discuss any co-parenting issues that arise without losing your cool:
- Co-parenting is about the kids.Regardless of the circumstances that led to the end of your marriage, you and your former spouse still have at least one thing in common. You both want to raise happy, healthy children who become happy, healthy, and contributing adults.The only way you will both achieve your goal is to focus on it and put the past behind you. There’s no reason to talk about your past relationship if it inflames discord.Discord takes your focus off your goal of working together to help your children grow into amazing people.There’s also no reason to take your fears, concerns, and/or anger about the future out on each other because doing so makes it impossible for you to work together (at least in that moment) to do your best parenting work.(There are some co-parents who don’t share this common goal. Luckily, it’s not typical. But if this is your situation, you need a bit different guidance for co-parenting with a toxic ex.)
- Be objective about issues that arise.The less emotional and more objective you can be when discussing any co-parenting problems that arise, the more likely it is that you’ll reach a resolution that works for both of you.When you need to talk about issues with your co-parent, it can help to imagine that you’re having a business meeting with them.During a typical business meeting, the group works together to resolve problems. And this is exactly what you need to do when a problem arises involving your child(ren).
- Exchange information respectfully, completely, and succinctly. This means that regardless of the problem you’re facing together that you avoid blaming each other, keep your emotions in check, be as informative as possible, and as direct as possible in relaying the information.It’s only by laying out all the facts as clearly and respectfully as possible that you’ll create an atmosphere that encourages collaboration in finding a solution. And solutions are what you want so you can both help your child(ren) be great.
- Listen calmly when your co-parent speaks.You and your co-parent are a team with the same goal of raising your amazing kid(s). What’s great about working in a team to achieve a goal is that you each bring different skills and perspectives.Respect your co-parent’s skills and perspectives. Use them to your child(ren)’s best advantage by listening to your co-parent’s views and ideas about how to resolve the problems you face together.The only way to do this is by being completely present when your co-parent speaks and not just listening closely enough to come up with what you want to say next.
- Set the intention of having a compassionate and supportive co-parenting relationship.You’ve probably heard the quote by Esther Jno-Charles, “What you focus on expands. So focus on what you want, not what you do not want.”Well, it definitely holds true for co-parenting relationships too. Keep working toward having a great working relationship with your co-parent – not for your sake, but for your child(ren)’s.Kids from divorced families do best when they have supportive, loving parents who get along and allow them to be kids.
These 5 tips are the basics for learning how to discuss co-parenting problems without losing your cool. They’re a great place to start and can form the basis of an amazing working relationship with your co-parent.
And, just like with any new skill, you will need time and practice to master them.
That means you’ll make mistakes along the way no matter how good your intentions are. But you can definitely recover from any mistake you make. And if you figure out how you got off track, you can even prevent the same mistake from happening again.
Also keep in mind that your co-parent is going through this big transition in their relationship with you too. And that means they’ll also make mistakes.
Regardless of any mistakes either of you make along the way in making the transition from being married with children to being co-parents, you will make it through. Keep your focus on being great parents and you will find it’s easier and easier to keep your cool when discussing any co-parenting problems that arise.
Previously published on DrKarenFinn.com
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