When safe and possible, it is best for the child to have both of their parents in their lives, because parental relationships will have the largest impact on the child’s life, and the largest influence of their health, mental well-being, and development. So how does one make it work?
In short, the key to coparenting is to set aside the past and focus on your common goal: making a good life for your child where they know they are safe, loved, and secure. It may be difficult, as divorces are often filled with hurt, but the anger, pain and resentment need to be lower on your priority list than your children.
Set aside your feelings:
If you are having a difficult time separating yourself from your negative feelings towards your ex, then you could always try separating your feelings from your behavior. If you need to blow of steam about your ex, it is good to use therapists, friends, and family as resources- but not your children. Complaining to your child about their other parent can shape their opinion of them and change the way they see them, which is not fair to your child or your ex.
Once you can separate the emotions affiliated with the divorce and the loss of the relationship, you can begin to focus on your common goal. Establishing a strong foundation of communication with your ex after your divorce is very important- not only does it set a healthy example for your child, but it also will help smooth over conflicts, should they arise.
The first part of communicating is listening. Be ready to listen to your ex when they need to talk about the logistics of the exchanging the child, or if they have concerns that they need to discuss. Then, work on having conversations that use a mature, respectful tone. It can be very helpful to make commitments to regularly meet or talk, and to compromise when needed.
Things you may need to discuss:
Transitioning between two homes will be easier for your child if there are high levels of consistency between expectations in the homes. Because of this, you and your ex should try to discuss these expectations you want to have for your children.
Do you guys have the same rules about eating dinner at the table versus in front of the tv? What about expectations for chores? When is bedtime? How are you handling discipline when your children disobey? If you are currently disciplining your child at one home, it is important that the discipline is followed through at the other parent’s home as well.
You will likely also need to discuss your child’s medical needs, and if possible, both parents should try to take them to the same doctor. It is also wise to discuss your child’s education, extracurricular activities, schedules, and other important decisions.
Just because your romantic relationship with your ex is over doesn’t mean that you must have a bad relationship with them. Many former couples eventually find their rhythm as co-parents and are able to eventually be friends- just remember your common goal.