“The end is never the end. It’s always the beginning of something.” – Kate Lord Brown
Your divorce is finally completed. Perhaps yours has been an easy one, or perhaps a really difficult, painful one. In either case, if you have children, figuring out how to co-parent with your ex-spouse is part of your new reality. The end of your marriage marks the beginning of managing your ongoing relationship with your co-parent. How you do it will have a profound impact on your child’s resilience after divorce.
Moving beyond your (still raw) emotions and shifting your focus to supporting your children’s needs and feelings post-divorce is a process and does not happen overnight. However, it is critical that you and your co-parent find a way to rebuild a cordial relationship. The research tells us that exposure to parental conflict is the major risk factor for children of divorce. So what can you do in order to minimize this risk for your children and maximize their chances of becoming healthy, well-adjusted adolescents and adults?
My advice is this: dig deep and find that inner strength and commitment to doing what is best for your children by supporting their relationship with the other parent:
- Help your child make a card for Father’s Day.
- Go with your son to buy a gift for his mom’s birthday.
- Make sure your children are available to take a phone call from your ex-spouse even if it does interrupt dinner.
- Be graceful and flexible in working out needed adjustments to the time-sharing schedule.
- Keep photographs of the other parent in your children’s bedrooms.
- Speak politely about the other parent to your children and in front of your children, and make sure that your friends and extended family do the same.
- Give your co-parent the space to parent your children his or her way – even if it is different than how you might handle things.
- Do not interrogate your children about what they did with mom or dad. Give your children the space to share their experiences on their own time and in a comfortable way.
- Say “thank you” when your ex-spouse is accommodating or helpful.
Your children – no matter their age – will benefit from observing their parents interacting respectfully and constructively. And because you love your children, you will benefit too.