Raising children with an ex isn’t easy — even if your relationship is amicable. But dealing with an uncooperative or difficult ex can make co-parenting even more challenging. Importantly, there are still ways you can work with your ex to raise emotionally healthy children. By following some basic co-parenting tips, you can help to ensure you provide your children with the stability and security they need to thrive.
Here are five tips to keep in mind to help make co-parenting easier with a difficult ex:
1. Prioritize Healthy and Respectful Communication
Healthy communication with your ex is key to effective co-parenting — just because you’re not friends with your ex doesn’t mean you can’t treat each other in a civil manner. It’s essential to prioritize respectful communication for the benefit of the children. However, in-person interaction is not always necessary. Sometimes, talking on the phone, using FaceTime, or texting may work best to ensure conflict-free communication.
If communication has been strained or stressful, you might consider using a co-parenting app. These tools, which can be used on smartphones or laptops, are specially designed to emphasize healthy communication. They can also make scheduling parenting time, managing expenses, and keeping track of extracurricular activities easier for both parents.
2. Aim for Consistency in Both Homes
Parenting comes with a lot of decision-making, and it’s crucial to make sure you are on the same page as your ex. While it can be beneficial for children to encounter different perspectives, it’s vital for them to know that the same rules and systems of discipline apply in both homes. Having different expectations in each home is not only confusing for the children, but it can lead to increased conflict between co-parents.
You should also strive for consistency in your children’s schedules. Meals, homework, and bedtime should be at approximately the same time in both houses. This way, the children don’t have to adjust to different schedules in each home, and transitioning between houses can be easier.
3. Make Transitions Easier During Visitation
Whether it’s on weekends, every few days, or once a month, moving between households can be tough on children. Prepare the children ahead of time by helping them pack in advance so they don’t forget anything. It would be best if you also kept basics such as toothbrushes, pajamas, hairbrushes, and other items, at each house to make packing easier. If possible, it’s best to drop off a child at the other parent’s home, rather than pick them up — when you “take” the child from the other parent, there’s always the risk of interrupting their quality time together.
During visitation, it’s critical to watch what you say in front of the children. Never speak badly about your ex, no matter how contentious your relationship might be. It’s also important not to use the children as messengers or make them feel like they have to take sides. Remember, your children love both their parents and want to build a relationship with each of you.
4. Keep the Other Parent in the Loop
One of the best ways to foster a good co-parenting relationship, even with a difficult ex, is by keeping them up to date and in the loop about events in the child’s life. For significant events like birthdays, graduations, plays, and important sports games, always do your best to include the other parent. At times the other parent can’t be there, or during everyday special moments, take photos or videos to share with them so they can be included.
If you’re co-parenting long-distance, it’s particularly important to find ways to work as a team. Using video chat technology can allow your children to maintain regular contact when in-person visitation is not possible.
5. Consider Going to Court
While it’s always best to resolve disputes out of court to remain in control of the outcome, this isn’t always possible with a difficult ex. If your ex consistently disregards your custody agreement and does not respect your boundaries, you may need to obtain a court order to enforce or modify the existing parenting plan. Depending on the type of conflict, mediation is another option you might consider to work out any disputes.
Co-parenting can be an emotionally overwhelming journey. But by keeping your children’s best interests in the forefront, setting firm boundaries, and communicating with respect, it can become more manageable. However, in high-conflict cases where co-parenting is not possible, you might consider exploring parallel parenting — this can allow parents to keep communications to an absolute minimum while still remaining active and engaged in their children’s lives.
If you require assistance with a child custody matter, it’s critical to have an experienced family law attorney on your side to guide you through the legal process. For more than 20 years, The Law Offices of Rick D. Banks has been committed to ensuring positive results for clients throughout Fresno and the surrounding area in divorce and family law matters. To schedule a no obligation consultation, call (559) 272-8359.