As I work with individuals that are learning to co-parent after a divorce or separation, I am often approached by parents asking “How do I learn to survive co-parenting with a person that I really do not like and clearly does not like me?” Any one that has been faced with a similar situation knows there is not a simple answer to that question. I personally believe, and many professions would agree, the smartest strategy for cooperative co-parenting is learning how to remove anger, hostility and or vindictiveness from your interactions with your child’s other parent. We all know that is not always easy to do. The benefits you develop will more than make up for the sense of satisfaction or ego gratification you get when you hold on to damaging emotions. This is important for everyone that is involved in the life of the child, including both parents, as well as all spouses, grandparents, friends–the list can go on. Basically, all individuals involved in raising the child have a responsibility to empower the child for success in life.
If you are dedicated on creating a child-centered co-parenting relationship that strives for harmony between you and your co-parent and empowers your child, you need to practice initiating conversation and model win-win solutions. If your co-parent does not want to cooperate, that is when your patience will certainly be tested. Look for moments to clarify why working together as co-parents as often as possible will create far better outcomes for your children. Over time, hopefully, your co-parent will see how much more peaceful the family interactions become when you are not focused on “winning.” If your co-parent is not willing to make this a vital component while co-parenting, the part you play will be significant and noticed as your child becomes an adult. We cannot make people communicate positively, that is a choice, however we can do our best, show a good example to our children to help them be good communicators as he or she finds their place in society. In other words, you can only control your own choices, but how you chose to interact with your child’s other parent will dramatically impact how well you empower your child for future success.
It is most important that everyone involved with the child’s family to remember, respect the child’s parent(s), and for who he or she is in your child’s life. Children have one Mother and one Father. Other individuals can hold a very valuable place in a child’s life as well, even providing a valuable supporting role for the parent, but should never try to take the place of the child’s mother or father.
Social Media can be a wonderful way to keep up with your child and an avenue to communicate with your co-parent if parents are cooperatively working together. However it should never be used as an opportunity to interfere, undermine, or spy on the other parent—rebuilding trust is vital to successfully co-parenting. When individuals use social media as a way to “stalk” the other parent this can be very detrimental to a child. Because social media is not always well thought out, and impulsive, the real truth can be blurred very easily.
There are no magical solutions when a co-parent is out to spite or hurt the other through the child. However, behaving in the same hurtful way is rarely a viable solution. Focus your energies on discussing the well-being of your child in the short–and long–term. Demonstrate patience and determination while containing feelings of anger.
Do not hesitate to consult professional counselors, mediators, parenting coordinators, divorce or parenting coaches, clergy or others who can provide objective guidance on how to restore or create harmony for the sake of your children. These individuals can offer perspectives you had not thought of or wanted to consider which can lead to new options for all concerned. The more open and flexible you are, the better the possibility of turning a difficult situation into a more cooperative one.
Remember, your goal is always what is in the best interest of your children–even when it is not the ideal choice for you. When your children are at peace, everyone wins.