If the thought of having to deal with co-parenting with a challenging ex is leaving you cold, you are not alone.
Every year in the UK, thousands of couples with children separate and must work together to find a way to bring up their children whilst living separate lives. While this journey will be different for every family, there are a some things you can do to help make the transition easier.
Why deal with co-parenting at all?
You may be asking yourself whether finding a way through a difficult break-up to a place where you can both deal with co-parenting your children together is worth it.
Unless your relationship broke down due to a serious issue which could put your children at risk, such as domestic violence, it is always best to try and find a way to have both parents play an active role in a child’s daily life.
This way, the children can still benefit from the close relationship they have with both parents.
Of course, putting aside differences, particularly when a relationship ended badly and you’d rather never see that person again, can be easier said than done.
Top tips for making co-parenting work
- Try to think of your relationship with your ex-partner or spouse as a different one to the co-parenting relationship you will have with them
It may even help to frame it in your mind as a completely new relationship which is solely about what is in the best interests of the children – and nothing at all to do with your feelings towards each other.
Each time you feel yourself getting upset or angry at your ex, ask yourself if these feelings are stemming from your children’s interests or whether it is really about how you feel about your ex.
Setting aside these feelings can be difficult, particularly when they are strong. But focusing on your child’s happiness and future well-being each time you feel resentment or anger towards your ex, can help those feelings to diminish in importance.
Over time, it will become easier.
- Separate your feelings from your behaviour
How you feel and how you react to your feelings are two different things.
You may not be in control of what your ex says or does or how it makes you feel, but you can choose how to respond.
Act in a way that benefits your children and their feelings.
Of course, you are going to need to acknowledge your feelings and talk about them and you certainly shouldn’t try to deal with co-parenting on your own. However, steer clear of involving your children. A friend or a counsellor can help you to get those feelings off your chest.
- It’s all about communication
When talking to your ex about your children, keep it professional. Imagine you are in a business meeting, dealing with a difficult client. You know you can’t rise to the bait and must deal with the business at hand. In this case, that is your child’s wellbeing.
You should find that the things that used to annoy you about your ex – or the way they knew exactly how to wind you up – will dull over time.
Once the children become front and centre to any interaction you have with your ex, you should find those feelings of anger or resentment will start to melt away.
If you are going through a divorce or separation and would like more information on your child arrangements and co-parenting options, get in touch to book your free appointment with one of our specialist family solicitors today.
Neil Graham, a Partner at Grayfords, comments as follows: “The breakdown of relationships can be particularly difficult for children. Coming to terms with the fact that your parents can no longer live together is far from easy and it is not unusual for children to feel caught between their parents or to feel that they may be partially to blame for the breakdown of their parents’ relationship. It is important to avoid this and to minimise the impact of the breakdown of the relationship upon children which is usually best achieved by putting their needs first, avoiding involving them in any animosity between their parents and trying to agree amicably arrangements that afford them stability and familiarity going forwards. That is not always possible, especially where one parent is implacably hostile to the other, and the Court will become involved if it has to in order to ensure that the children’s best interests are met. Asking the Court to intervene should always be regarded as a last resort and there are many ways of avoiding that, if at all possible, that are identified in the links below.”