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One of the biggest challenges that entail divorce and separation is co-parenting. It is rarely ever easy to co-parent your children with your ex, especially if you have a contentious relationship with them. It is natural for you to have doubts about your ex’s parenting abilities. Thinking about major decisions such as your children’s education, as well as financial concerns, coupled with the very aftermath of a divorce can be very overwhelming. Moreover, it can be extremely difficult to move on from the past and let go of the accumulated anger, pain and sadness inside of you. Despite all of this, peaceful co-parenting is integral to your children’s well-being as it will give them the stability, security and healthy relationships with both parents. Co-parenting is usually the best way to ensure that the children maintain close relationships with both parents, however this may not be advisable where domestic violence is prevalent in the family. Studies have shown that the mental and emotional well-being of children is largely dependent on the quality of the relationship between their parents, following a divorce or separation. While joint custody arrangements can be extremely stressful, it is in fact possible to develop an amicable relationship with your ex for the purposes of co-parenting, and overcome the challenges that come with it.

One of the keys to co-parenting amicably with your ex is to treat your personal relationship with your ex and your co-parenting relationship as different. Your co-parenting relationship should be centred upon the well-being of your children and dislodged from your personal interests. Your marriage has ended but your family has not, and it is still yours to care for. Your children should be able to see and feel like they are important, and that they matter more to the two of you than the issues that ended your marriage. For starters, it is useful to put aside all your feelings of hurt and resentment. This is because successful co-parenting essentially involves placing your children’s emotions before your own. Your actions should be motivated by their interest. Ensuring that your behavior towards your children as well as the co-parenting relationship is not controlled by your feelings may be the hardest part, but it is vital.

Another thing you may want to avoid doing is competing with your ex to be the favorite parent. Following a divorce, it is common for parents to want to be in the good books of their children. They want to be the ‘good’ parent or the ‘cool’ parent, and some are willing to do this at the expense of rules, discipline and order. The inevitable outcome of this is that the child then begins to compare the parenting styles of both parents, and surely, the child is going to prefer the parent who spoils him or her the most. Joint custody arrangements are commonly structured in a way where one parent looks after the children on weekdays, and the other on weekends. In such scenarios, it is very normal for the weekend parent to want to spoil the children, after not having seen them the entire week. While it is healthy for the children to experience both styles of parenting and different perspectives, they must be clear of the basic values and morals of the family. In other words, both parents need not be exactly the same, however there must be some consistency. Spoiling the children once in a while is acceptable, but not at the compromise of values.

If you have been or are in a co-parenting relationship, you would know that a large proportion of difficulties and disagreements that arise are owed to a breakdown in communication. This is probably because that breakdown in communication had probably existed prior to the divorce itself. For some, the very thought of communicating peacefully with their ex following a divorce may seem impossible. Yet, establishing and maintaining effective communication is essential, and this begins with an effective mindset. You can start off by reminding yourself to always relax and to always be respectful. Communicating with maturity starts with listening. Once you have made the decision to co-parent your children with your ex, you must realize that communicating is going to be necessary for the length of their childhood, and most likely even longer. Therefore, communicating peacefully is bound to make things easier for everyone.

Nevertheless, you and your ex are bound to have disagreements. In the face of such disagreements, it is important to keep communicating and try to find a compromise especially if the disagreement relates to something important. If it is not important, don’t sweat it. That being said, never place your children in the center of conflict. Refrain from discussing your differences of opinion with or in front of your child. Using children to convey messages to your ex puts them in the center of your conflict. Venting to your children about your ex would create in them a negative impression of their parent. Neither of these are healthy for the well-being of your children. Remind yourself that while you may not love your ex anymore, your child does and should love his parent.

Teaching your children that they are products of divorce or separation will create in them a victim mentality. Acknowledge that they may be dealing with many mixed emotions, but know where to draw the line. Where parents can maintain a cooperative relationship post-divorce, they can together create a healthy environment for their children to grow up in. Reassure your children that they have the love of both their parents and you will witness them adjust more quickly and easily to divorce and new living situations and have better self-esteem. Moreover, children who see their parents continuing to work together are more likely to learn how to effectively and peacefully solve problems themselves. Divorce doesn’t have to damage kids.

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