Being a parent is rewarding and fulfilling – but can also be hard. At times, co-parenting can make this already arduous task seem impossible. If your split from your partner was laden with turmoil and tension, co-parenting may be one of the most challenging aspects of your life.
As cliché as it sounds, putting your differences aside for the sake of your children will always be the first words of wisdom offered by friends and family. Keep in mind that your loved ones mean well and don’t expect you to become best friends with a person who you could no longer be in a relationship with, but also that there is often truth in their words.
So what should you do to put your differences aside and co-parent with an ex you don’t see eye to eye with?
Wave the white flag.
Keep your focus on what you can control and let go of the rest. As a parent, you will have ideas about what you think is best for your children. Yet as children get older, you will begin to realize that you have less control over what they’re exposed to. If you and your ex differ in parenting practices, values or lifestyle choices, it can be extremely stressful when you realize that you do not have complete control over everything that goes on with your children when they’re not with you. The truth is there are hundreds of ways to parent, and no two people are ever on the exact same page. This goes for couples who are still together. Trying to control every aspect of your child’s life and what goes on at your ex’s house can lead to unnecessary conflict. Outside of causing real danger or harm to your children, letting go of what happens when they are with your ex is one of best ways to ensure your sanity.
Do your best, forget the rest.
When the kids are with you, give them your undivided attention and show them that their time with you is precious. Do not try and live up to the expectations your ex may place on you. Children adapt and understand that each of you are different and only want what’s best for them. They will know who to go to for their specific needs. You may be the strict parent, and your ex may be considered the fun one, but these are differences couples who remain together also share. Give your children your best – that’s all you can do.
Swallow your pride.
Learning to pick and choose your battles is a life lesson, but it’s extremely important while navigating the co-parenting mine field. There will be countless issues and decisions regarding your children that will require you to discuss, come up with solutions and even mutually agree upon with your ex. If you are focusing on minute details, as opposed to the “big picture,” your ex may tune you out altogether. Figure out where your priority concerns are, and address those issues. Choose a battle that means something and will have an actual impact on the wellbeing of your child.
It’s okay to let off some steam.
Co-parenting can bring you to a tipping point, which is why it’s necessary to have a healthy outlet for your feelings. Talking to friends and family can be helpful, or even seeking the assistance of a family therapist. It’s important that you get any built up emotions out so you don’t lose your composure in front of your children or vent to them about issues you are having with your ex.
Co-parenting is a learning curve and requires that everyone does their best to keep their children happy while maintaining their own peace of mind. Just remember that working with your ex may not be your preference, it’s one of the best ways to keep the focus on what’s best for the children.
For more information on co-parenting, or if you have questions regarding your individual circumstance, contact the family law attorneys at Protokowicz & Rodier.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide about the subject matter. A licensed Maryland attorney should be sought about your specific circumstances.