You may not be married anymore, but you and your ex-spouse are still in a committed relationship as co-parents. Going through a divorce changes a lot, and you’ll continue making adjustments over the years. But you can find ways to be the supportive team your kids want and need. Here we’ll go over some essential tips for co-parenting after the ups and downs of a divorce.
Stay calm in front of the kids
Your emotions may already be charged up when spending time with your ex-spouse. It may be challenging to keep your stress under control if your relationship has been marked by conflict or painful moments. But letting your emotions loose in front of your children can make things worse. Even if you aren’t trying to push each other’s buttons, your old communication habits and frustrations can add friction to the moment. Here are a few ideas to help you stay calm and on track.
- Practice a phrase you can repeat whenever you need to. It can help you stay calm and on topic with your ex-spouse. “We can talk about that later. Right now, we need to…”
- Take deep, slow breaths before you see them, and do them when you are together if you feel stressed.
- Keep your tone of voice neutral and business-like.
- If you feel emotions rising, cut the conversation short and step away.
- Keep interactions brief and kid-focused.
- Avoid responding to anything negative or hurtful at that moment.
Communicate directly with each other, not through the kids
It may seem convenient to pass messages back and forth through your kids, especially when they’re with their other parent. But even messages that don’t seem like a big deal can be delivered incorrectly or misinterpreted by the other parent. Communicating like this puts your kids in the middle of a conflict, adding stress and emotional turmoil to the mix.
Kids are self-focused and often have a blurred line between reality and fantasy. They try to make sense of chaos with magical thinking. Kids can believe that they are to blame for family problems. They may also think they have the power to bring the family back together again. It’s normal for kids to apply magical thinking to many things in their world. But it can make them vulnerable to a lot of emotional pain if parents aren’t careful about their communication methods. Allowing them to be a messenger can amplify feelings of responsibility and guilt. This can create an enormous emotional burden for children that parents may not be aware of.
Redefine your relationship with your ex-spouse
A divorce means that your relationship has become broken in some way. Even if you ended things peacefully, you’re in a much different place than you were when you married. While co-parenting, you are each also reconciling the changes in your personal relationship. This can take time and may sometimes affect how you co-parent together.
You can only address your behaviors and habits, not your ex-spouse’s. However, whatever change you develop can have an impact on your relationship regardless of their efforts. You may feel like you’re the only one trying sometimes. Do the best you can with your part anyway, and you may see your relationship evolve.
Keep these goals in mind as you redefine your relationship as co-parents:
- Pledge to become more aware of your habits and communication struggles.
- Understand how you cope with emotion, both in helpful and harmful ways.
- Acknowledge the positive effort you see your ex-spouse putting forward.
Transition moments are hard, even with a good plan
Coping with ongoing change can be tiring. Think about the adjustments you go through when you get a new job or move to a new neighborhood. You have many details to learn and remember, and it can seem overwhelming or frustrating sometimes.
Now consider your kids doing this week after week for years as they adjust to living in different households and new family arrangements. Having a good plan helps, but things go wrong and people make mistakes. It can be a point of stress for everyone. Create some simple habits that can minimize frustration and smooth out the process.
- Stay as organized as possible. Create checklists and create a plan for the transition between homes, both leaving and arriving.
- Keep your schedule handy and minimize changes when possible.
- Communicate any adjustments to the schedule as soon as you can and with respect. Stay positive and respectful, knowing this could be frustrating to your ex-spouse.
After the Divorce – Connected Through Parenting
Divorce can be emotionally difficult for everyone in a family. You’ll have tough moments, but you can find ways to co-parent successfully after your divorce. It takes work, patience, and some planning. But you can improve your teamwork, lower your stress, and keep your kids’ needs in focus.
New Dimensions Can Help!
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.
Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit www.mhthrive.com to learn more.