Estranged parents often feel wounded by and/or hostile toward each other. Despite these feelings, their children need them to cooperate as parents.
Whatever the parents can do to improve communication and cooperation will probably make life better for their children. Here are a few ideas about ways you might improve your relationship with your ex.
Treat your ex with respect. Recognize that it is OK for you and your ex to have different ways of interacting with your kids. If you were still married, you would have different personalities, enjoy different activities and maybe have different approaches to nurturing and disciplining your children. The kids can handle that.
As long as your kids can tell what to expect from each of you, and each of you is a good-enough parent, there is no need for you to try to persuade your ex to be more like you. Respecting his or her right to be who s/he is will ease tensions for everyone.
It helps if bedtime is about the same time in both houses, but there is no need for you to have identical daily routines. If one of you uses time-outs to discipline kids and the other takes privileges away when punishment is appropriate, it’s OK.
If one of you is comfortable with loud arguments and the other insists on a quieter way of managing differences of opinion, it’s OK. Your kids learn that people are different from each other and that there is more than one way to live life.
Sharing information can help a lot. Keep your ex informed about your child’s doctor, dentist, teacher(s) and counselor. Be sure that they know that it is OK to show health care records and educational progress reports to the other parent. Invite your ex to parent-teacher conferences. Treat your ex as an important person in your child’s life, because he or she is.
When possible, include your ex in decision-making. If your child wants to be on a soccer team or a swim team, the schedule of practices and competitions is likely to affect both parents. If you can cooperate about scheduling extra-curricular activities, that’s a good thing.
Both you and your ex are going to make mistakes. You are likely to hurt each other’s feelings or offend each other from time to time. When possible, apologize with sincerity. That really can make the other person feel better about working with you on future plans for your child.
Be willing to compromise. The plan you prefer might really be a better plan, but being willing to bend for the sake of improving your relationship may be a better choice. If the issue is something that affects your child’s health and safety in a big, important way, stand your ground. Otherwise, some flexibility can help everyone feel more relaxed.
I will not pretend that treating your ex with respect and courtesy will be easy. If you can do it anyway, you are setting a good example for your children and helping to reduce stressors in your children’s lives. Be proud of yourself.
This article is for informational purposes only. Nothing here should be construed as legal advice. The author is a Certified Family Mediator. She is not an attorney or a clinical psychologist. Additional information is available at Colin Family Mediation.