These three rules will help you learn how to juggle your new life by co-parenting a child with a difficult ex. When you have them solidly in hand, everything else will fall into place.
As painful as it is for everyone involved, sometimes divorce is necessary for the health of the household. When children are stuck in the middle of the split, the goal for both parents should be to be the best role models they can be and enable co-parenting to go smoothly.
This might be your aim, but if your ex is difficult to deal with, it’s not always up to you. They can make it nearly impossible to get along with them, and you’re stuck shielding your children and yourself from the extra stresses they’re causing.
Survival Guide to Co-Parenting
No matter how “unusual” your situation is, we guarantee you are not the first person to deal with an impossible ex. Yours may be an extreme case, but this survival guide can help you as you try to find balance in your new life.
Rule Number One: Stick to the Schedule
The visitation schedule agreed upon with your family lawyers and assigned by the courts is by no means perfect. There will be times when you lose the chance to be with your child on their birthday, a holiday, or a fun event you were invited to, and vice versa. Yet, when you’re dealing with someone who is difficult to get along with, for everyone’s sake, you must stick to the visitation schedule. If you don’t, you’re giving them the opportunity to have power.
For instance, they can make it hard for you when you want your child, they said yes, and then changed their mind, or they can try to wear you down until you agree to give them extra or unplanned time. Don’t put yourself in that situation. The set schedule also helps your child know exactly when they’ll be where, and this will be vital for their health as they get older.
Rule Number Two: Remember, Your Child is Always Listening
No matter what you want to say about your ex or your divorce, never talk negatively about it in front of your children. They hear more than you think they do, and they internalize your thoughtless comments in ways you might not realize.
It doesn’t take much for a child to blame themselves for their parent’s divorce or think that one parent’s negative trait is something they have, too. Even if your ex is talking badly about you, and you know it, do not sink to their level. Do damage control however you can, preferably with the advice of a professional counsellor. Over time, your children will start to see which parent is the supportive one, and which one has dug themselves in a hole.
Rule Number Three: Keep Boundaries Up
Setting healthy boundaries is vital to every relationship, no matter who you’re interacting with. It’s especially crucial when you’re dealing with a difficult parenting partner with who you are attempting co-parenting.
Most of us have trouble setting and enforcing boundaries. If this sounds like you, you must learn how to do this for your well-being and your child’s. They will eventually mimic your behaviour, good or bad, and you want them to know that it’s okay to tell other people no. They must learn how to handle toxic or dangerous loved ones, and that’s what you’re teaching them by instilling boundary-setting into their lives.