Five Tips For Improving Your Co-Parenting On Your Own

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Co-Parenting With A Difficult Ex

Co-parenting isn’t easy. You’re no longer with your ex for a reason, and yet, your lives, and many major decisions, remain intertwined.

So what do you do when you and your ex can’t agree on a single thing? Your co-parenting styles are completely opposite? Perhaps you feel undermined every time your children returns to your home, or leaves for your ex’s.  You’re tired of the constant arguing, criticism and attempts to control your household? Are your kids so used to the drama, they’re playing it against you?

You’ve tried working with the other parent to no avail, but all is not lost.  Here are five tips to improving your situation with or without help from your ex.

1) RECOGNIZE YOU CAN’T CONTROL YOUR EX OR THEIR HOUSEHOLD.
Nor would you want them to control yours.  Yet many of my clients spend hours of energy trying to convince, cajole and enforce their opinions and expectations on  their ex. If you take nothing else from this article, take note:  You can never control anyone else, you can only control yourself.  The more you push someone into running things your way, the more they’ll oppose you.  So STOP trying.

Yes, it would be great if your spouse was open to compromise, but if that isn’t going to happen,  you only have one choice…to put your own house in order as best you can.  Imagine how much farther your efforts will go if you expend your energy on something you CAN change.

2) STOP COMING TO THE FIGHT.
Just because your ex invites you to the argument, doesn’t mean you have to attend the fight.  Sure it’s tempting to retaliate, but why?  What are you truly gaining?  Do you really feel better getting in that last dig?  Studies have shown that the more we ruminate on an issue, the unhappier WE become.  Bottom line—has the fighting brought you any closer to your ultimate goal of supporting your children?

From now on resist the urge to argue. Work with facts, communicate the necessities, and encourage compromise, but don’t expect it.   The more you practice, the easier it will become.  Eventually, your ex may stop coming to the fight too.

Stop Coming to the Fight Example 1: 

Ex: What did you do to Johnny last night?  He’s been bratty all day and won’t stop crying.”
You: Hmmm. He didn’t appear upset last night.  Maybe he’s getting sick.”
Ex: He’s not sick. You just put him to bed too late.  You always do this!”
You:  I had him in bed by 9:00. Now that I think about it, he struggled to fall asleep last night. What do you think will help him sleep better?
Ex: Putting him to bed on time!
You: What time do you think is appropriate?
Ex: 9:00
You: I agree. Done! Any ideas on what will help him sleep better?

Stop Coming to the Fight Example 2:

       Ex: You let Angie eat at McDonald’s again? That’s the third time this week. Don’t you ever cook?
      You: I didn’t realize we went out that much! It was a busy week.  I’ll have Angie help me with dinner tonight.  It will be fun!

3) CONSIDER YOUR PART.
Your ex isn’t perfect.  Statistically, speaking you aren’t either.  It’s easy to pinpoint the other parent’s faults, but not so much our own.  If you really want co-parenting to improve, it may be time for an honest review of your participation.   How often are you/do you:
-emotionally charged when it comes to your ex
-closed off in communications
-negate your agreements
-are you difficult to work with?
– talk to or about your ex disrespectfully?
-display contempt through your body language, attitude or responses
– sabotage your exes parenting or worse your own (out of anger, frustration, guilt, revenge, etc.)
-support your exes wishes?
-negate your ex’s parenting style?
-try to outdo your ex’s parenting?
– too harsh or permissive because you feel guilty, frustrated, angry, tired, etc?

4) USE EFFECTIVE METHODS IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD:
Feeling like your ex does all of the above?  I hear this all the time:  When my child comes back he/she’s tired, cranky, rude, lazy, argumentative, etc.!  Sound familiar: That’s even more of a reason to put your house in order. Kids may not act like it, but they need boundaries and predictability.  Provide the best foundation you can for their future, and you’ve done your job. Positive parenting is an excellent place to start. 

For more information on parenting styles visit positive parenting techniques.

5) REFER TO YOUR PARENTING PLAN/UPDATE YOUR PARENTING PLAN OR CONTACT A SPECIALIST:
A good parenting plan (usually required for custody cases) should already have the basic rules and expectations in place.  If you or your ex has neglected to follow the plan, it’s time to review it.  Keep your correspondence cordial and to the point, and follow the guidelines laid out in the plan.  Always keep copies for your records.  If your parenting plan isn’t doing its job or is outdated, it may be time to seek professional guidance.

*This article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for legal or medical advice.  Please contact a professional as needed.

I highly recommend the following articles to help you get started:

Traits of An Effective Parent
Immediate Stress Busters
Co-Parenting Tips