Divorce is never easy. There are many reasons for divorce but that doesn’t make it any easier. In fact, it is often one of the hardest life experiences we can encounter and it is filled with so much emotion, it is challenging to learn how to co-parent peacefully. And let’s face it, nothing is worse than having your kids feel as if they are caught in the middle of an awful relationship.
It even becomes difficult to ask for parenting advice or divorce advice from friends and families because not everyone can see things from a non clouded or judgemental viewpoint so it is difficult to get answers that will help.
Knowing that, let’s imagine a few scenarios with your ex that can hit you where it hurts, trigger hurt and leave you feeling bitter toward your co-parent. Then we’ll break down the behaviors that happen to many divorced parents and try to take the sting out in order keep things positive and constructive.
Co-Parenting Problem – Scenario 1:
You stop by your co-parent’s to pick up the kids. He or she can’t wait to pick a fight with you because your youngest’s beloved bunny wasn’t packed for the overnight stay and no one slept well without it.
Before you engage in this argument, take a deep breath and remember that even through the anger and hurt of a divorce they’re human (and you are too).
Part of what stings about this interaction is that you forgot to pack the bunny. When things like this happen, we can often feel guilty and question ourselves. How could we have forgotten to pack the bunny our child sleeps with every night? We all make mistakes and when stress or heightened emotions take over, it is easy to forget things. It has nothing to do with being a competent or caring parent. Forgive yourself first. You don’t need to justify your actions, you are human after all and everyone makes mistakes. The last thing you want to do is be on the defensive, so expect that your “ex” will make a big deal out of it as that is probably what he/she does all the time. It is part of them showing their own hurt and anger or whatever other emotions they are going through. Remember that this divorce is a tough time for everyone. Knowing what to expect or adjusting your expectations is half the battle.
Next, keep in mind how it feels to deal with a whining or crying child or even to lose out on sleep. While that doesn’t give your co-parent permission to yell at you, think about how you would react on the other side of the disagreement, especially if you were tired and exhausted on top of that or if your child blamed you for not having the bunny at your house.
Take a deep breath, take responsibility for your part of what has occurred, and ask to move on.
Co-Parenting Problem – Scenario 2:
Soon after your separation or divorce (way too soon in your opinion) your ex introduces a new girlfriend or boyfriend to your kids without running it by you first. You’re furious when you find out and intend to let your co-parent know how it makes you feel.
Of course, you have every right to be upset and even furious. But no one wins an argument by being irate. In fact, trying to converse and parent with someone who is angry and upset will only cause anger in the other person and we all know that two angry people cannot have a calm discussion. At this point, no one will be heard and it will just make matters worse.
Take some time to calm down (which also means, don’t bring it up to your co-parent until you are calm and know what viewpoint you would like to get across) and examine the reasons why you’re angry. Then calmly and rationally explain to your ex why this choice was unacceptable and find a constructive way to handle these scenarios moving forward. (Tip – think about what you would want down the road. Remember that what you both agree to now is applicable for both of you and try to find a parenting style that works for everyone involved. When we say we are creating boundaries, we are really creating new co parenting rules for the relationship to make it easier for you both to parent together and so that to the children, it looks like everyone is on the same page).
Co-Parenting Problem – Scenario 3:
Every time you see your ex, he or she makes passive aggressive digs at you. Your children don’t understand their meaning, but you do. And you often feel so hurt, you’ve started to dig back.
It’s time to find your new normal (even if your co-parent hasn’t). It’s clear your ex isn’t dealing with his or her emotions in a healthy, constructive manner. Don’t give into that behavior. This is most likely an ongoing pattern and remember that we will always revert back to the patterns we think are working for us even if they don’t work. The patterns we learn in childhood are often difficult to change. If your co-parent wants to use this behavior to pick a fight and blow off some steam, then they will, but remember, you can’t fight with someone who refuses to fight. And, fighting with them through this divorce is really giving them exactly what they are looking for.
Take the high road and change the tone of your interactions. There were reasons that you chose to get divorced and communication or lack thereof was probably one of them. Communication, even one sided communication can often be a wonderful parenting skill to master through a separation or divorce.
Choose kindness, warmth and compassion in every interaction, even when he or she takes a swipe at you. You choose who you want to be and the type of person you want to show up as. Remember, the more peaceful your parenting interactions go, the more peaceful your kids will feel.
The beginning of a divorce is the hardest time because you are dealing with heightened emotions, fears about everything that is changing and all of the unknowns. You are also setting new boundaries with your co-parent (and with your children) and even though you may not feel as if it is working right away, be patient because over time, he or she will notice a difference in your co-parenting behavior and respond accordingly. Even the hardest divorces can learn how to co-parent and use functional communication and parenting skills as long as there is patience, time and willingness. Before you know it, you will be co-parenting, not from a place of emotion but parenting with love and logic.
For more divorce information find out what to do when you don’t have your children and you can’t stop crying.