Parenting While Separated: How to Improve your Co-Parenting Relationship
November 6, 2018 by Lily Wright
Parenting is difficult, and separation can make the process feel near-impossible. Below are a few tips from Namu on how to get past the emotion hurdles and parent at the top of your game.
Reinvent your relationship with your ex-spouse.
There are a few things that nobody seemed to warn you about when you were a bright-eyed, starry-eyed newlywed stepping out into the world for the first time. “Divorce” probably wasn’t a word in your day-to-day vernacular, but as we all know – things change. Transitioning from parents to co-parents can be a tough transition, especially if the separation with your spouse ended in acrimony or heartbreak.
It may be beneficial to start seeing your spouse as someone entirely new, and your responsibility to one another has changed entirely. The first step to being a mature, responsible co-parent is to always put your children’s needs ahead of your own.
Become a better communicator
According to a 2015 report from Psychology Today, lack of communication affected nearly every key factor on the list of reasons why couples divorce. Although “communication issues” officially landed the no. 5 spot for the biggest reason that couples divorce, “trust issues,” held the no. 1 spot, followed directly by “different expectations.” The big takeaway? In nearly every instance of conflict or contention, better communication could have been a major alleviating factor.
- While it may be too late to fix the communication issues of the past, it’s never too late to start improving, especially when those improvements are aimed to better the lives of your children. Some helpful skills to practice include:
Using specific language and avoiding defaulting to broad generalizations. “You’re always do this,” or “You never do what you’re supposed to,” are two key phrases to avoid. The more specific you can be about the problem, the easier it will be to come to an understanding.
- Avoid mind-reading and guessing. Assumptions can lead to a lot of conflict, and so the general rule of thumb is always ask or get feedback when necessary.
- Share the positive thoughts, not just the negative ones. Your relationship with your ex-spouse will feel a whole lot lighter if you bring levity and positivity into the equation. It’s easy to fall into the trap of only communicating when things are dire or negative, but positivity can go a long way.
Put your kids first.
After any separation, it’s easy to lament the past, focus on the conflict that still exists, or obsess about all the reasons your ex-spouse infuriates you. It’s important to shift the focus to your children and devote as much time and energy as possible into bettering their lives. If it helps, you can start to envision your relationship with your ex-spouse as a business partnership, where the “business” is your children’s well-being. If you can see your ex-spouse as a business partner, or a colleague, it will be a lot easier to approach the relationship with cordiality, respect, and neutrality. If the purpose of conversation is about business, ie: your kids, it will feel a lot easier to focus on them and not the background noise your relationship.
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