How does one co-parent with someone who won’t let go of the past?
How does one afford one’s children a continued sense of stability and the chance to maintain a good relationship with both parents – when one’s ex is nasty, disrespectful, or uncooperative?
Circle of Moms, a rich online resource for parents, offers the following tips for common co-parenting problems experienced by divorced parents:
Problem 1: Your ex is nasty and disrespectful to you and it makes you furious.
How to Deal: Address it if it’s happening in front of the kids, telling your ex you would prefer to keep things civil in front of the children, and then — let it go. You can’t control what s/he does or doesn’t do; all you can control is your reaction to it. This isn’t your problem, it’s your ex’s. It only becomes your problem if you allow yourself to be sucked in. Your ex is an ex for a reason, so quit worrying about what s/he thinks and says.
Problem 2: Your kids are being used as informants and messengers.
How to Deal: Acknowledge your part in this and resolve that you, at least, will keep your kids out of it. You can do this in a few ways:
- Don’t go into details about what went wrong between you and your ex. Kids definitely do not need to know about all their parents’ problems.
- Allow your kids to develop an independent relationship with their other parent. Encourage the relationship, and caution your kids not to “bad mouth.”
- Give your kids some space. As tempting as it is to try to gather info about what’s happening at the other house, avoid putting the kids in the middle by asking them 2,000 questions every time they have visited or spoken with their other parent.
Problem 3: Your ex is a no-show for visits or shirks other court-ordered responsibilities.
How to Deal: Keep a log of what’s going on in case you decide to go back to court. Document each and every time you schedule with him/her to see the kids and s/he no-shows or cancels; you may need that information later on.
Problem 4: Your co-parent isn’t involved with or doesn’t care about what’s going on with the kids.
How to Deal: Don’t try to solve unsolvable problems. You cannot make someone accept the responsibilities they should if they are not interested. If your ex won’t show up for functions or help make decisions, just keep doing it yourself instead of wasting your energy trying to change him/her.
Problem 5: Communication between you and your co-parent is non-existent or antagonistic.
How to Deal: Find a new way of communicating, preferably in writing, as talking on the phone or in person seems to encourage conflict. Email is sometimes effective in removing the drama from communicating and affording time to process and to decide what to say in response.
Problem 6: Your tween or teen is upset about the way your ex runs things in his/her house.
How to Deal: Be their listening ear, but not their mouthpiece. Instead, teach your children healthy ways to stand up for themselves and to communicate their needs. Your children needs you on their side. . . . they do not need you to do it for them.