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7 Tips for Co-Parenting With Your Former Spouse

Jim Robenalt Dec. 13, 2023

Don’t let celebrities fool you. Co-parenting entails real work, and the struggle is real. 

One of the challenges in co-parenting is getting along with the ex. 

So how do some people have this thing down?

Well, they suck it up.

You don’t have to be BFFs with your ex. But for the sake of your kids, you’ll have to play nice and be a good collaborative partner. True enough, this is easier said than done. 

This article will feature tips to help you co-parent with your ex like a rock star.

What Does Co-Parenting Mean

The best way to put this is children-centered collaboration.

Even if you and your ex are no longer “coupled,” you’re still on the same team. So it would help if you worked together to help your children make strides when they grow up.

Co-parenting means putting in a lot of work while keeping the bickering on a down low. So no matter how messy the breakup was, it’s good to set the noise aside as you focus on your kids.

Just remember you love your kids even if you hate your spouse. 

But kidding aside, it’s all about being nice to each other even if you don’t want to.

Healing from a Past Hurt

Before you co-parent, you must move on from the hurtful past. Because if you don’t, you’ll be bringing the same old stuff into the co-parenting relationship.

Imagine a combative affair where even the most minor decision can wreak havoc. If this is the case, the co-parenting relationship will fail in no time.

So take time to self-reflect and understand that you have a crucial role in this relationship. Think of your children as you work with your ex for their proper development.

Co-parenting is easier if you have forgiven yourself and moved on from the unhappy past.

What to Do When Dealing with a Difficult Ex

Is your ex challenging to handle? 

Let’s process this.

Just because the two of you broke up doesn’t mean you didn’t love that person at one point in your life.

Remember when you thought that person was your entire world—one you couldn’t live without.

So when you’re about to hate your co-parent, think of the things you two were happy about. Even the smallest thing that you love about that person. Then let your appreciation grow. It’s all about finding the good in your co-parent.

Here are 7 Tips to Make Your Co-Parenting Relationship Work

1. Communicate with Respect Even in Heated Arguments

As long as you stay co-parents, you can expect disagreements between you and your ex to arise occasionally. 

But the problem is not the disagreements. Instead, it’s how you handle the conflict and address the issue.

So when disagreements arise, it’s best to keep calm and discuss rationally. Keep the heated emotions aside. Schedule a date and place to talk without the kids if you can.

Although there are disagreements that can’t wait, if you need to let it out or discuss something important, it would be helpful to show the kids that you are working through the issue calmly and rationally.

Send a message showing the children that you and your ex respect each other. There is no need to resort to fighting. 

2. Be Accessible and Respectful

What’s your first reaction when your phone rings, and it’s your ex?

Some people tend to keep their phones silent; worse, they reject the call. But if someone does that to you, would you like it? Perhaps not.

In co-parenting, communication is vital.

You don’t necessarily have to bend over backward to make concessions. But if you can give them a favor without hassle, there’s no need to be difficult. 

If you’re available to help them, then please do so. Pick up the phone or promptly reply to their text message. It won’t hurt to set aside a minute or two to be accessible to your co-parent.

Respect begets respect. If your kids see this, they will appreciate and follow your example.

3. Never Badmouth Your Co-Parent, Even If You Want To

Sometimes when you’re mad at your ex, you want to lash out, and it’s okay to feel that way. We are human, after all. 

But no matter how angry you are, never use harmful speech. Especially in front of your kids. Doing so teaches them that it’s okay to be disrespectful.

As a co-parent, never badmouth the other. Avoid speaking negatively about them or allow other people to do so.

While you get some satisfaction, badmouthing brings enormous consequences. Not only are you teaching your kids that it’s okay to do so, but you may also unintentionally make them feel insecure.

Children see themselves as a combination of both parents. So if you attack your ex, it’s as if you are also attacking that part of your kids. This can hit hard on their self-worth.

4. Be Flexible Even If You Don’t Want To

Co-parents need to give each other the benefit of the doubt. Maybe your ex forgot about the soccer game or can’t attend ballet practice because something came up at the last minute.

Even if it makes you growl on the inside, give your ex a soft landing when they’re having a hard time.

Conflict in schedule usually triggers a fight between co-parents. But if there is the willingness to forgive or make concessions, everything will be okay.

So what if your ex skipped the soccer game? You can suggest switching days if necessary. Let them take ballet practice next time.

As a rule, try to stick to what’s agreed. But if your ex can’t make it and it’s easy for you, give them a favor. There’s no need to refuse your co-parent to make things difficult.

5. Be Fair Even If It Doesn’t Seem Equal

Sometimes it feels super irritating when it seems you’re doing everything from attending your kids’ PTA meetings to their recitals. 

But co-parenting is just like that. What seems convenient to you may not be best for your children.

So you pulled them off their recitals or skipped the PTA meeting—for whose good is it? Indeed, you just freed up your schedule and have some quality time for yourself. But your children suffered from your decision to do so.

It may not seem fair to be doing all the work for the children. But listening to your desires can have an adverse effect on them. And that’s just selfish.

Your time may be precious, but so does your kids’, more so because it’s limited because of your co-parenting schedule.

Try to make them feel good and have a grand time every time they are with you. Instead of getting mad that things didn’t go your way, be their biggest fan. Give them an audience and cheer for them all the way.

6. Celebrate Special Occasions with Your Kids, Even Your Co-Parent’s Birthday

Even if you don’t want to, try to celebrate special occasions with your kids, including your ex’s birthday.

This gives your kids the feeling of a family, even if yours no longer falls under the typical description of one.

It’s essential to put your kids first and you and your ex second. And be kind. Co-parenting will be much easier and more productive.

7. Find a Support System When the Going Gets Tough

Co-parenting is not easy. Tensions can rise even from the pettiest arguments. With all the stress, it helps to have a support system you can go to when the going gets tough.

Have someone to talk to, confide your secrets, and share your innermost thoughts. Having that support network can be a breath of fresh air when going through difficult times.

Your support system could be your closest friend, sibling, someone from work, or a religious leader in your community. Some support groups on Facebook provide a safe space for similarly situated people.

Make Co-Parenting Work for Your Kids

There is no cookie-cutter solution to doing co-parenting work. The best way to approach this is to change your mindset. It helps to think of your co-parenting relationship with your ex as entirely new.

Now, it’s no longer about just you and your ex. It’s what’s best for the well-being of your kids.

The marriage may be over. But your children’s best interest remains the most important priority.

See co-parenting as a children-centered decision-making process that you and your ex must go through. You can agree to designate your ex to decide primarily on some issues while you take on the rest.

It doesn’t matter if you like or hate each other. Disagree if you must over specific issues. But everything will turn out fine if you’re aiming for respect, good communication, fair concession, and teamwork.

Take the Peaceful Avenue for Divorce

A litigated divorce can take a toll on you and your spouse. Spare yourselves from this devastating option and opt for mediation instead.

At Next Page Mediation, we can help you through this guided negotiation process so you and your spouse can reach a mutually agreeable settlement. 

To schedule your free 30-minute consultation, click here.