The key to co-parenting is focusing on your child—and your child only. Yes, this is hard—really hard. It means that your own emotions—any anger, resentment, or hurt—must take a back seat to the needs of your children. Admittedly, setting aside such strong feelings may be the hardest part of learning to work cooperatively with your ex, but it’s also perhaps the most vital. Co-parenting is not about your feelings, or those of your ex spouse, but rather about your child’s happiness, stability, and future.
Separating feelings from behavior
It’s okay to be hurt and angry, but your feelings don’t have to dictate your behavior. Instead, let what’s best for your kids—you working cooperatively with the other parent—motivate your actions.
- Get your feelings out—somewhere else. Friends, therapists, or even a loving pet can all make good listeners when you need to get negative feelings off your chest. Exercise can also be a healthy outlet for letting off steam. Never vent to your child.
- Stay kid-focused. If you feel angry or resentful, try to remember why you need to act with purpose and grace: your child’s best interests are at stake. If your anger feels overwhelming, looking at a photograph of your child may help you calm down.
- Use your body. Consciously putting your shoulders down, breathing evenly and deeply, and standing erect can keep you distracted from your anger, and can have a relaxing effect.
Children in the middle
- You may never completely lose all of your resentment or bitterness about your break up, but what you can do is compartmentalize that and remind yourself that those are your issues, not your child's. Resolve to keep your issues with your ex away from your children.
- Never use kids as messengers. When you have your child tell the other parent something for you, it puts him or her in the center of your conflict. The goal is to keep your child out of your relationship issues, so call or email your ex yourself.
- Keep your issues to yourself. Never say negative things about your ex to your children, or make them feel like they have to choose. Your child has a right to a relationship with his or her other parent that is free of your influence.