You’re going through a divorce or just determined that you are going to separate from your soon to be ex and you two just can’t get along. Now you’re faced with the challenge of raising a child with this person that you can’t stand. How do you do it? How do you build a positive co-parent relationship despite the negative emotions you feel towards them?
Reform the Relationship
First things first, you have to understand that you are creating a new type of relationship with the other parent. It’s no longer romantic. It needs to be strictly business-like. You are redefining the relationship you have with them. You have to get to know each other all over again in a new way and build up trust slowly. And know that it will take some time.
That means give them a chance, hear them out, and don’t hang old things over their head. It’s going to take patience, maturity and swallowing your pride at times. You literally have to throw everything out the window and start over. They are now your business partner and your business is raising happy, healthy kids.
The thing that damages kids the most during the divorce and post-divorce isn’t the divorce itself, it’s witnessing parents trash each other and argue.
Stop Talkin’ Smack
So listen up! If you want to work towards happy, healthy children…the most important thing is to not talk crap about the other parent or treat them poorly. After all, that’s no way to run a business.
When you treat the other parent like crap, or trash them in front of your child, you’re doing a few things:
- You’re teaching them it’s okay to treat others poorly just because they don’t like them.
- You’re placing them in the middle, causing them to feel guilty or take sides.
- Because they are half of that parent, you criticizing the other parent’s traits can tarnish your child’s self-image.
- In the future, they will think it’s acceptable for their significant other to degrade them or speak poorly of them.
Here’s an example:
You just picked your son up from his dad’s house and he tells you he had fun playing with daddy’s new girlfriend. He kept going on and on about how she stayed the night and watched movies with them. You and his dad had an agreement that you were to meet each other’s girlfriend/boyfriend before introducing them to your son. You respond to your son angrily saying, “Your dad is completely disrespectful and shouldn’t be bringing his flavor of the week around you! This is complete bullshit.” You immediately pull over and call his dad to argue about it over the phone despite your son being in the car.
Your emotions are strong and you don’t seem to care about the plans you had with your son to go to the park because you’re so distracted with this. Your eyes are filling up with tears and you’re shaking because his dad isn’t picking up his phone or responding to the countless angry texts you just sent.
Meanwhile, your son is in the back seat completely confused and regrets telling you anything. He feels as though he caused you to cry and caused you to be mad at his dad. He decides right then and there that he won’t ever tell you what goes on at his dad’s house again because it always makes you upset.
After all of the insulting things you sent to his dad, he refuses to introduce you to his girlfriend and it takes 4 months for you two to be able to speak cordially to each other again.
By reacting that way, you displayed to your child that:
- It’s okay to react to things impulsively.
- You think his father is irresponsible, causing him to view his dad in a negative light or feels just as irresponsible and guilty for having fun with his new girlfriend.
- He shouldn’t trust his dad’s decisions.
- His dad doesn’t respect you or your agreements.
- His dad’s new girlfriend problem takes priority over quality time with him.
- He shouldn’t share with you what goes on at his dad’s house because it only upsets you.
Let’s go back to the same scenario:
You just picked your son up from his dad’s house and he tells you he had fun playing with daddy’s new girlfriend. He kept going on and on about how she stayed the night and watched movies with them. You and his dad had an agreement that you were to meet each other’s girlfriend/boyfriend before introducing them to your son.
You respond saying, “oh I didn’t know your dad had a new girlfriend. I’ll have to catch up with him about that. I’m glad you had a good time at your dad’s house.” You send his dad a text saying, “can we set up a time to talk later? I need to speak with you about something.”
You drive to the park and spend the day with your son. You realize that freaking out over it right now isn’t going to change what happened. After your son goes to bed, you and his dad talk on the phone. His dad tells you he didn’t think it was that big of a deal, he’s sorry and he is more than happy to introduce you to his girlfriend tomorrow.
In scenario 2, you protected your son from feeling guilty, you made him the priority of the day, you waited to speak to his dad privately, you gave yourself time to cool down, and you heard his dad out, despite disagreeing with the timeline of being introduced to the girlfriend.
You see how in both scenarios you have the same problem but handled them completely differently? One resulted in a detrimental outcome and the other resulted in a positive outcome.
The Ball is in Your Court
Sometimes, things are not going to go as planned. They are going to shake you and throw you off balance. You can’t let that ruin everything you’ve worked towards. One incident can ruin everything, could be temporary or forever. So, you need to control those ill feelings, get over your past and put the work in for the greater good of your child’s future.
It truly starts with you. Do what you need to do to get right with yourself. No one can fix your feelings but you. Blaming others won’t fix your problems either. There are resources out there to help you get where you need to be. Go to therapy, take a vacation, start living a healthier lifestyle, do yoga, etc.
You can potentially rewrite the path of your children’s future. You have a lot more control over things than you may think. Set the example for the other parent and swallow your pride. Your kids are counting on you!