Co-parenting effectively is important for your children’s well-being as well as for your own. In many cases co-parenting can be a challenge because going through divorce is one of the toughest experiences in life and both parties may feel overwhelmed and emotional. However, there are ways to co-parent where you can help your children grow and develop into happy and healthy adults.
Lay the groundwork: Letting go of the past and consciously choosing to approach the relationship as co-parents rather than exes can help make co-parenting easier. If you can let go of the past, it will help you put your emotions aside when you’re interacting with your ex. Work on being respectful and kind to your child’s other parent - it will go a long way toward having a productive co-parenting relationship.
Refraining from judgment and standing your ground: Realize that it’s ok for each parent to have a different style of parenting, and you should be respectful of each other’s views. Instead of cutting down each other’s parenting, “She’s too strict,” or “He’s coddling them,” realize that it’s normal for children to have to adapt to different styles even when switching between homes. There’s no one right way to deal with parenting issues. Try to give up your firm view of how to parent and compromise with your co-parent whenever possible. Remember you’re doing this for your children, not your ex.
Collaborating to support your child. Collaborate with your child’s other parent by communicating with them about important things that come up. For example, if your child got hurt during school or didn’t feel well when they were with you, letting the other parent know will help develop trust between you.
See the good in both parents - yourself and your ex. Recognize that each of you have good qualities that are good for your children. One parent may be crafty and do arts and crafts with the children while the other is better at teaching them math. Point out these differences and appreciate them about each other. Talk to your children about being grateful about having parents who have different strengths. Focus on the positives and let go of the negatives.
When you can work as a team with your co-parent for the benefit of your children, it will pay off. Communicate, compromise and focus on the positive and you’ll be able to become an effective co-parent and help your children grow into happy and healthy adults.
Are you dealing with an ex who has a difficult personality? Whether or not your ex has a clinical diagnosis doesn’t really matter - you just know that everything is harder than it needs to be when it comes to interacting with him or her as you go through your divorce. If your ex can be controlling and confident in how they talk to you, you may be concerned that they’re going to get exactly what they want. This can be intimidating!
Here’s the secret. They can say anything they want but that’s not reality. Just because he or she says something intimidating - like “I’m not paying alimony.” or “You have to move out of the house now!” - it doesn’t mean you have to listen. I’m going to share some important strategies when trying to come to an agreement with an ex who doesn’t know how to compromise.
Take back your power by implementing boundaries.
When your ex pressures you and tries to exert power over you, take back your power. This doesn’t happen through matching aggression. You can reclaim your power over the situation by setting a boundary.
Say “I can’t talk about this right now. I need a break” and walk away.
Or text: “I’m not going to be available for the next hour.”
Or, you don’t have to respond at all! Giving yourself the time and space to calm yourself down is powerful. This helps you maintain your integrity in the divorce process, no matter what’s thrown at you.
Don’t take it personally and keep it about your end goal.
It is crucial to remove the emotion from negotiating your agreement. It truly doesn’t matter what your ex says or thinks about you. It doesn’t matter what they’ve done in the past. That has no bearing on your future apart from them. What will affect your future is the agreement. No matter how your ex behaves, keep in mind that you don’t need your ex to be nice, but you do need a legal agreement. The legal agreement is your end goal.
Wait it out while conserving money and energy.
Your difficult ex may talk confidently and sound like they’re never going to budge. Once their attorney explains what’s realistic and after they see how much money can be wasted on legal fees, they usually become more reasonable. Even though it’s tempting, don’t feel the pressure to get your agreement done as fast as possible. Be patient. While you’re waiting, you can trust this - people usually get what’s fair according to the courts. After spending money on their attorney and getting frustrated with the process, most people eventually realize that they have to compromise to get through the process. While you’re waiting for this to happen - it can take anywhere from a month to several months - you want to spend the least amount of money and energy. If you don’t rush it, even the most difficult ex will usually come around. Or, the judge will require them to!
Use a mediator
Consider using a mediator to walk you through the process when dealing with a difficult ex. Mediators are trained in interacting with all kinds of people and can be the one to break through to your ex so that they realize that compromise is necessary.
Find strategies to keep yourself calm
Divorce is overwhelming and can be exhausting. You need strategies to be able to remain calm. Anytime your ex or their lawyer comes at you in an aggressive manner, it’s difficult. Recognize when you’re overwhelmed and take a step back. You can take back your power when you learn to avoid reacting and think through how you want to respond.
If you can be patient, keep yourself calm, and think about your long term goals, you’ll reach an agreement with your challenging ex. It may be a difficult journey but it’s worth it in the end!
Are you in control of your anger, or is your anger controlling you? During divorce, a certain amount of anger is normal and appropriate. But many people get stuck in their anger and have anger be your baseline emotion on a daily basis. When this happens, you may lose touch with your priorities and make poor judgments. Holding onto anger can feel like being in control but it can actually leave you bitter and result in you acting irrationally. Here are some clues that anger has hijacked your decisions during divorce.
What should you do if your anger has been calling the shots? Letting go of anger in divorce takes work. But identifying that it’s there is a positive first step! Anger usually covers up other emotions like sadness or disappointment. I recommend spending some time trying to get to the root of your anger and letting yourself experience the sadness and other emotions that might be behind the anger. Journaling or therapy are great ways to explore all of your emotions to find out what’s going on behind anger. Also, you can check out my blog - Letting Go of Anger in Divorce - to help you with this process.
As you go through the complicated and overwhelming divorce process, you start to realize how much time and money you’re spending. This can be extremely frustrating. Many people think hiring an attorney is the best way to protect yourself and your financial well-being. However, understanding how to communicate with your attorney as well as other divorce professionals can actually save you both time and money and decrease your stress.
Here are the roles of some of the key players that can be part of your divorce support team:
An Attorney takes care of the legal aspect of divorce. But they aren’t trained to handle the emotional piece. And divorce is extremely emotional. So if you vent to your attorney about your ex or talk to them about your children, they’re going to charge you a lot for the conversation (more than a Divorce Coach or Therapist) and they probably won’t help you very much. You should talk to your attorney about: questions about the law, how to get through the legal process and what you should expect to receive financially and regarding custody given your individual situation.
A Divorce Coach can help you decide who you need on your team and how to use each person effectively. They can also help you navigate the emotional piece of divorce so that you can start to think clearly and develop a plan for your future life. You should talk to your Divorce Coach about: questions you have about the overall process, strategies for communicating with your ex, or advice for helping the kids. A divorce coach is the one to turn to for expert advice about how the whole process works and helps you know what to consider for the future.
A Therapist can help you process the emotional aspect of divorce - the grief, anger, sadness, loneliness and stress. what emotions the divorce You should talk to your Therapist about: what emotions the divorce brings up, how your past impacts what you're feeling now and how to build your confidence and self-esteem.
A Financial Advisor or Certified Divorce Financial Analyst helps you think through decisions today that will affect your financial future and also helps you make a plan to achieve your financial goals. You should talk to your Financial Advisor about: your assets, your debts, your income, retirement plans and how to create financial stability.
A Divorce Mediator works with you and your ex and helps you come to an agreement. This can save massive amounts of money as you eliminate the need to communicate through attorneys and helps the process to be less adversarial than using lawyers. Much, if not all, of what you need to accomplish legally can be handled by a skilled mediator. You should talk to your Divorce Mediator about: who gets what, parenting plans, what really matters to you, what seems fair to you and where you are willing to compromise.
With support from a team of divorce professionals, you can be confident that you are going to lay a solid groundwork for your future without wasting unnecessary time and money. Divorce is stressful, but it can be manageable when you effectively utilize the expertise of each person on your team.
Living with your STBX (soon-to-be-ex) is really hard! If you have children together, that makes it even more difficult because you're going to have to learn to communicate and work together. The good news is you won't be living together forever and I’m here to give you some solid help on how to live together during divorce more effectively.
The biggest key to navigating living together during divorce is to make some ground rules! Rules can protect each of you and provide boundaries during a time when things could get heated really quickly. Here are some ground rules that work well for other couples living together during the divorce process:
I hope these ideas help you navigate this tough time period that you’re in the same house with your STBX. These suggestions will help make this time less painful for you, your kids and your soon-to-be-ex.
Every parent wants their kids to turn out happy and emotionally well. In fact, many people delay divorce because they’re worried about how it will affect their children. But believe it or not, studies have shown that divorce is not what hurts kids. What hurts kids is high conflict between their parents, which they tend to internalize.
For years, research has shown that the quality of interaction between separated and divorced parents is a strong predictor of the mental health and psychological well-being of children. Although it may be difficult to get along with your ex, the more that you can minimize conflict, the better your children will be. Kids can actually thrive through divorce. Here are 2 BIG ways to help them.
Co-parent respectfully in front of your children. Never fight or argue in front of your children. Fighting in front of children can be extremely damaging. I know this may feel impossible, but you can do this. Take deep abdominal breaths every time you’re triggered by your ex. Think through how you’ll respond. Call your friend or family member to talk about how to respond in a respectful way. Ask yourself if you have to respond at all. Keep your children front of mind. No matter how angry or emotional you are, you can protect your children by changing how you interact with your ex.
Think of your ex as if he or she were a colleague or coworker. What does this mean exactly? Don’t think about the relationship when you were married because you have a different relationship now. You’re co-parents, not husband and wife. Try to relate to each other in a businesslike fashion without emotion. Put on your professional hat and know that how you feel about your ex is less important than how you act toward him or her. If one of the parties is not being respectful, the other can say, “Let’s take a break and speak about this later.” Keep in mind three rules:
If your ex doesn’t abide by these guidelines, keep at it and eventually your ex should begin to follow your lead. It may take a little longer for your ex to get on board. Keep reminding him or her, “For the good of our children, we need to be respectful and work together.”
You can do this! Your kids are worth the effort.
Want more tips to help you not only survive but thrive during separation and divorce? Take a look at my free webinar, 3 Critical Strategies to Save Time, Money and Heartache in Divorce.
Divorce and separation are challenging no matter what, but when you have a difficult ex, the challenge increases exponentially. However, it can be managed, with the right perspective and some proactive strategies.
Your ex may have made you feel bad about yourself during your marriage/relationship so your self-esteem is low. You may be exhausted from years of dealing with your ex’s difficult behavior and you can get triggered by this. How do you co-parent when it’s so hard to control your emotions? Follow these 5 guidelines to make co-parenting with a difficult ex more effective:
1. Build your self-esteem and be patient with yourself. Treat yourself as you would treat a friend. Be patient with yourself – if you mess up, recognize that you’re learning how to deal with a very difficult situation. Change your self-talk from “I can’t believe I let her get to me.” to “I’m doing the best I can and it’s ok.”
2. Don’t get triggered by your ex’s provocative remarks. This is easier said than done. If you can take a pause before you respond, you’ll give yourself the time to think through how you’d like to handle the situation. A pause enables you to respond rather than react. Take a few deep breaths, meditate, call a friend – anything that helps you calm down.
3. Seek a parenting coordinator through the courts. Courts can appoint a parenting coordinator to coordinate scheduling and communication issues between the parents. It’s helpful to have a professional who is trained to deal with high conflict divorce handle these issues.
4. Develop your divorce strategy. What are your priorities? What kind of life do you want in 6 months or 1 year? Without a strategy, you can get derailed by your ex’s behavior. Remind yourself why you’re leaving the marriage and what kind of life you want going forward. This will give you perspective beyond the current struggle.
5. Don’t make your child the middleman. Don’t use your child to send messages to the other parent, don’t vent to your child about the other parent and don’t ask your child for information about the other parent. Let your children know that it’s not ok to do those things and if either parent tries to do any of those behaviors, they will know that it’s not ok. They can learn to set boundaries with their other parent.
The life you want is waiting for you. Ignore the noise that’s coming from your ex and celebrate that it can’t control you anymore. Focus on the present moment, breathe deeply, notice nature, appreciate freedom. Once you recognize that finding your peace has nothing to do with anyone else, you’ll have the life that you’ve been dreaming of.
We can get provoked or “triggered” by many things – a fight with a spouse, a child who won’t listen, a boss who treats you badly, an aggressive driver, etc. Being triggered simply means that some event has impacted us emotionally and we have a difficult time reacting rationally. When we’re triggered, we do things that we shouldn’t do. We yell back at our spouse or child, we say something inappropriate to our boss, or we leave in a huff. How wonderful would it be if we could somehow, in the moment that we are triggered, find a way to detach?
One skill that you may have tried in the past when you’ve been triggered is deep abdominal breathing. Deep abdominal breathing is where you push your stomach out as you breath in and pull your stomach in as you breath out. This enables your lungs to expand much farther than if you take the typical “chest breath”. When you do it correctly and for long enough, your brain will release a hormone that will calm you. This calm will enable you to detach. Once you’re detached, you can respond logically rather than emotionally.
Sometimes deep abdominal breathing doesn’t work. You try it and you’re still triggered and unable to detach. Grounding is another technique that can be helpful in these circumstances. Grounding is a type of coping strategy that is designed to “ground” you in or connect you to the present moment. You can only use grounding if you have given yourself some space from the person that you were interacting with. You can say that you have to go to the bathroom, ask them if you can talk about this a little later or find some other way to get to a separate space. Once you’ve gotten to a separate space, you can try these steps for grounding:
The key to being successful with these techniques is to practice them when you’re not being triggered. You can also make up your own method of grounding that enables you to distract and detach yourself from your emotions. Learning to detach is a powerful tool that can help you to be more successful in your communication skills and improve your relationships with your spouse, children, boss and anyone else important in your life. Let me know what techniques work for you!
On average, 40% of all first marriages end in divorce, and over half of those families have children under the age of 18. When you add to that the 57% of millennials choosing to have children outside of a marital union, there are lot of parents who are not living under the same roof. Under the best of circumstances, raising a child is difficult, but when you’re divorced or not living together, it brings a lot of additional challenges.
Ideally, both parents share childcare responsibilities – and the quality of their co-parenting relationship can be characterized by the extent to which they support or fail to support each other. When parents fail to cooperate, it can have consequences for all involved. For years, research has shown that the quality of interaction between separated parents is a strong predictor of the mental health and psychological well-being of children living in this type of family structure and young children especially are at higher risk for anxiety, aggressive behavior, and poor social skills. If you can’t manage to get along, it can cause lasting mental and emotional problems for your kids.
In such situations, having a support network is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your family. All parents going through divorce or separation need supportive people that they can talk to, so they don’t speak to their children about any ill feelings about the other parent. A therapist, a friend, a family member, a clergy member, or any supportive individual can make the difference between frustration and anger and learning how to manage your emotions.
The following rules an help to build a healthy co-parenting environment:
Following these rules – even if you’re not on the same page as your ex - is a gift to your children. They will benefit tremendously from having a secure, reliable relationship with both parents. And if you find that you fall off the wagon sometimes, don’t beat yourself up - the rules aren’t always easy to follow. Admit to your child that you made a mistake, apologize and move on. The gift your child will receive is less anxiety and more stability, as you and your ex work together for their well-being.
In today’s fast-paced, connected world, we often communicate via email and text. Remembering to update an ex on all events, conversations and decisions is important and requires organization and time. But failure to do so can lead to the breakdown of the co-parenting relationship and can negatively impact your children.
Luckily there are tools that are now available to help co-parents communicate more effectively. The app that I’d like to highlight is called “2Houses” which includes a calendar where every family member can view an online schedule. Parents can schedule recurrent activities like tennis lessons and special events such as birthday parties. The app has a finance tool that helps parents manage their children’s expenses. When a payment is needed for a doctor’s appointment, a reminder is sent to the parent in charge of that payment. A great feature is a wish list where each parent can suggest what should be bought for their children such as food or something needed for school. It even has an album feature where you can share pictures of your children with each other. Lastly, there is an info bank where you can share important contact numbers and addresses.
If something is not communicated correctly, there can be serious consequences. Apps like 2Houses make it easier for co-parents to be on the same page. By using 2Houses, the chances of miscommunication is lessened and you and your children will benefit.
Marriage isn’t always easy and most, if not all, marriages go through ups and downs. The loss of a job, mourning the loss of a friend or parent or an illness can significantly impact a marriage. In some marriages, neither spouse ever considers divorce. But sometimes one or both spouses may think about divorce.
Thinking about divorce is very different from deciding you want a divorce. When you’re just thinking about divorce, you’re not ready to take that step. You may be very angry at your spouse or feel very hurt. You may realize that the stresses that you’re dealing with right now will not last forever. When you spend a night out with your spouse you may get along well and feel hopeful that things will get better. And many times things do get better.
In general, unless you’re seriously thinking about divorce, you probably shouldn’t mention it to your spouse. Threats of divorce or leaving a relationship can be damaging to a relationship. If there’s a discussion about divorce every time there is a fight, that can make the relationship emotionally unsafe. Divorce is a loaded word and shouldn’t be overused. Once you say it, you can’t take it back.
Most people who are seriously considering divorce have thought about it for a long time. But when do you talk about it with your spouse? It depends on a lot of factors. Is there abuse in the relationship? Are you concerned that your spouse may do something extreme if you have that discussion? Do you have children? Does your spouse react rationally to stressful situations? All of these things must be considered before you make the decision to talk to your spouse about getting a divorce.
One way of navigating this process is to work with a professional – a therapist who can provide a safe place where you can discuss your feelings with your spouse. Ideally you can come to the decision together whether or not to get divorced. Although that’s not always possible, if you’re working with a therapist, you’ll have guidance about how to work together respectfully. You can avoid some post-divorce anger and misunderstanding. This is especially important if there are children involved because children are significantly impacted by their parents’ relationship.
Jill Barnett Kaufman is a Divorce Coach, Therapist, Parent Educator and Divorce Mediator. She is an experienced professional who helps clients discover new ways to resolve a variety of challenges when considering divorce, starting the process of divorce or are already divorced.