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REFLECTIONS


Today my ex-husband and I are friends and we both have forgiven each other from our past, after 20-plus years and what seems like a million court cases.


As I reflect over the years in some ways it still hurts. It hurts to remember the moments of disharmony between us as well as the effects it has had on our daughters. Was it worth it? Did I move too fast? Did I really know him? Did he breakupow me? In hinds' sight, I guess you could say that maybe there were signs, but then again love covers. One thing I know for certain, our marriage was not a mistake. We were blessed with two beautiful daughters and for that, I am most grateful.



No, things didn’t work out between my ex-husband and me, but I have learned a lot. I value what I have learned from the experience. I have grown spiritually and have been able to forgive. I know now that life is full of the unexpected and most importantly, I have learned that in order to move forward I need to forgive.



I never expected things to end as they did. I have worked through the pain and discomfort over the years which has taught me a lot about myself. I have grown emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I am grateful to have had the courage to take the journey of marriage. Although we were not as successful together as we had hoped I won’t look back with regret on the experience.



HELPING TIPS


Tip 1: Set hurt and anger aside


Successful co-parenting means that your own emotions any anger, resentment, or hurt must take a back seat to the needs of your children. Admittedly, setting aside such strong feelings may be the hardest part of learning to work cooperatively with your ex, but it’s also perhaps the most vital. Co-parenting is not about your feelings or those of your ex-spouse, but rather about your child’s happiness, stability, and future well-being; separating feelings from behavior.


It’s okay to be hurt and angry, but your feelings don’t have to dictate your behavior.

Instead, let what’s best for your kids you working cooperatively with the other parent motivate your actions. Get your feelings out somewhere else. Never vent to your child. Friends, therapists, or even a loving pet can all make good listeners when you need to get negative feelings off your chest. Exercise can also provide a healthy outlet for letting off steam.


Stay kid-focused. If you feel angry or resentful, try to remember why you need to act with purpose and grace: your child’s best interests are at stake. If your anger feels overwhelming, looking at a photograph of your child may help you calm down. Don’t put your children in the middle. You may never completely lose all of your resentment or bitterness about your breakup, but what you can do is compartmentalize those feelings and remind yourself that they are your issues, not your child’s. Resolve to keep your issues with your ex away from your children.


Never use kids as messengers. When you use your children to convey messages to your co-parent, it puts them in the center of your conflict. The goal is to keep your child out of your relationship issues, so call or email your ex directly. Keep your issues to yourself. Never say negative things about your ex to your children, or make them feel like they must choose. Your child has a right to a relationship with their other parent that is free of your influence.


Tip 2: Improve communication with your co-parent


Peaceful, consistent, and purposeful communication with your ex is essential to the success of co-parenting—even though it may be impossible. It all begins with your mindset. Think about communication with your ex as having the highest purpose: your child’s well-being. Before having contact with your ex, ask yourself how your actions will affect your child, and resolve to conduct yourself with dignity. Make your child the focal point of every discussion you have with your ex-partner.


Remember that it isn’t always necessary to meet your ex in person speaking over the phone or exchanging texts or emails is acceptable for the majority of conversations. The goal is to establish conflict-free communication, so see which type of contact works best for you.


Co-parenting communication methods


However, you choose to have contact, the following methods can help you initiate and maintain effective communication (Click here)

  1. Set a business-like tone. Approach the relationship with your ex as a business partnership where your “business” is your children’s well-being.

  2. Speak or write to your ex as you would a colleague with cordiality, respect, and neutrality. Relax and talk slowly. Make requests. Instead of making statements, which can be misinterpreted as demands, try framing as much as you can as a request. Requests can begin with, “Would you be willing to…?” or “Can we try…?”

  3. Listen, Communicating with maturity starts with listening. Even if you disagree with the other parent, you should at least be able to convey to your ex that you’ve understood their point of view. And listening does not signify approval, so you won’t lose anything by allowing your ex to voice his or her opinions.

  4. Show restraint. Keep in mind that communicating with one another is going to be necessary for the length of your children’s entire childhood if not longer. You can train yourself to not overreact to your ex, and over time you can become numb to the buttons they try to push.

  5. Commit to meeting/talking consistently. Though it may be extremely difficult in the early stages, frequent communication with your ex will convey the message to your children that you and your co-parent are a united front.

  6. Keep conversations kid-focused. Never let a discussion with your ex-partner digress into a conversation about your or their needs; it should always be about your child’s needs only.

  7. Quickly relieve stress at the moment. It may seem impossible to stay calm when dealing with a difficult ex-spouse who’s hurt you in the past or has a real knack for pushing your buttons. But by practicing quick stress relief techniques, you can learn to stay in control when the pressure builds (Click here).

  8. Improving the relationship with your ex, If you’re truly ready to rebuild trust after a breakup, be sincere about your efforts. Remember your children’s best interests as you move forward to improve your relationship.

  9. Ask your ex’s opinion. This simple technique can jump-start positive communications between you. Take an issue that you don’t feel strongly about, and ask for your ex’s input, showing that you value their opinion.

  10. Apologize. When you’re sorry about something, apologize sincerely—even if the incident happened a long time ago. Apologizing can be a very powerful step in moving your relationship past that of adversaries.

  11. Chill out. If a special outing with your ex is going to cut into your time with your child by an hour, graciously let it be.

Remember that it’s all about what is best for your child. Plus, when you show flexibility, your ex is more likely to be flexible with you.


Tip 3: Co-parent as a team


Parenting is full of decisions you’ll have to make with your ex, whether you like each other or not. Cooperating and communicating without blow-ups or bickering makes decisions far easier for everybody. If you shoot for consistency, friendliness, and teamwork with your co-parent, the details of child-rearing decisions tend to fall into place.


Aim for co-parenting consistency


It’s healthy for children to be exposed to different perspectives and learn to be flexible, but they also need to know they’re living under the same basic set of expectations at each home. Aiming for consistency between your hexesyoexesxYoexesx’sand your ex’s avoids confusion for your children.


Rules. Rules don’t have to be exactly the same between two households, but if you and your ex-spouse establish generally consistent guidelines, your kids won’t have to bounce back and forth between two radically different disciplinary environments. Important lifestyle rules like homework issues, curfews, and off-limit activities should be followed in both households.


Discipline. Try to follow similar systems of consequences for broken rules, even if the infraction didn’t happen under your roof. So, if your kids have lost TV privileges while at your ex’s house, follow through with the restriction. The same can be done for rewarding good behavior.


Schedule. Where you can, aim for some consistency in your children’s schedules. Making meals, homework, and bedtimes similar can go a long way toward your child’s adjustment to having two homes.


Making important decisions as co-parents


Major decisions need to be made by both you and your ex. Being open, honest, and straightforward about important issues is crucial to both your relationship with your ex and your children’s well-being.


Medical needs. Whether you decide to designate one parent to communicate primarily with health care professionals or attend medical appointments together, keep one another in the loop.


Education. Be sure to let the school know about changes in your child’s living situation. Speak with your ex ahead of time about class schedules, extra-curricular activities, and parent-teacher conferences, and be polite to each other at school or sports events.


Financial issues. The cost of maintaining two separate households can strain your attempts to be effective co-parents. Set a realistic budget and keep accurate records for shared expenses. Be gracious if your ex provides opportunities for your children that you cannot provide.


Resolving co-parenting disagreements


As you co-parent, you and your ex are bound to disagree over certain issues. Keep the following in mind as you try to reach a consensus. Respect can go a long way. Simple manners should be the foundation for co-parenting. Being considerate and respectful includes letting your ex know about school events, being flexible about your schedule when possible, and taking their opinion seriously.


Keep talking. If you disagree about something important, you will need to continue communicating. Never discuss your differences of opinions with or in front of your child. If you still can’t agree, you may need to talk to a third party, like a therapist or mediator.


Don’t sweat the small stuff. If you disagree about important issues like medical surgery or the choice of school for your child, by all means, keep the discussion going. But if you want your child in bed by 7:30 and your ex says 8:00, let it go and save your energy for the bigger issues.


Compromise. Yes, you will need to come around to your ex spouse’s point of view as often as he or she comes around to yours. It may not always be your first choice, but compromise allows you both to “win” and makes both of you more likely to be flexible in the future.


Tip 4: Make transitions and visitation easier


The actual move from one household to another, whether it happens every few days or just certain weekends, can be a very hard time for children. Every reunion with one parent is also a separation from the other, each “hello” also a “goodbye.” While transitions are unavoidable, there are many things you can do to help make them easier for your children.


When your child leaves


As kids prepare to leave your house for your ex’s, try to stay positive and deliver them on time. Help children anticipate change. Remind kids they’ll be leaving for the other parent’s house a day or two before the visit.


Pack in advance. Depending on their age, help children pack their bags well before they leave so that they don’t forget anything they’ll miss. Encourage packing familiar reminders like a special stuffed toy or photograph.


Always drop off, never pick up the child. It’s a good idea to avoid “taking” your child from the other parent so that you don’t risk interrupting or curtailing a special moment. Drop off your child at the other parent’s house instead.


When your child returns


The beginning of your child’s return to your home can be awkward or even rocky. To help your child adjust:


  • Keep things low-key. When children first enter your home, try to have some downtime together, read a book, or do some other quiet activity.

  • Double up. To make packing simpler and make kids feel more comfortable when they are at the other parent’s house, have kids keep certain basics—toothbrush, hairbrush, pajamas—at both houses.

  • Allow your child space. Children often need a little time to adjust to the transition. If they seem to need some space, do something else near by. In time, things will get back to normal.


Establish a special routine


Play a game or serve the same special meal each time your child returns. Kids thrive on routine—if they know exactly what to expect when they return to you it can help the transition.


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