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No matter how angry or hurt you may be after a divorce, if you have children, you’ll still share a lifetime with their other parent, your ex. Dr. Romance offers guidelines for moving past the anger and hurt, and finding a way to co-parent your children that is good for everyone.
Commonly, everyone feels wounded after a divorce. The divorced parents are going through feelings of failure, rejection, abandonment and loss. The children have similar feelings. All these hurt feelings lead to competitiveness, drama and recriminations. Divorced parents, in sharing custody, can retaliate against each other by making visitation difficult, bad-mouthing the other parent (or the new partner or step-parent) to the children, withholding child support and trying to get the children to deliver inappropriate messages to the other spouse, like "mommy says you didn't dress us right"
Divorced parents can avoid these scenarios by using the following guidelines:
Dr. Romance's Guidelines for Co-Parenting after divorce
*Don't React, Respond: When the other parent does something upsetting, take time to cool down before responding, and respond with a possible solution.
- Talk About It to safe people: Talk to other couples, to a therapist, to friends and to family to create more understanding and brainstorm about options. If you can find other couples who have resolved divorce differences, find out what they decided. Let off steam to safe people, so your children don't experience your anger and frustration.
- Explain Your Ex's Point of View: When talking about it to each other, or to someone else who is supportive, explain each other's point of view, which will help you understand.
- Focus on Your Children: Keep your focus on what would be best for your children, and if they are old enough to understand, bring them into the discussion. Don't try to persuade them to either side, but present the options as objectively as you can, and find out what your children think about it.
- Experiment: Be willing to try some experiments. Try it the way the other parent wants it, to see if it works. Try letting the children decide how they want it to be, within reason.
- Avoid Right/wrong Discussions: Arguing about who is right or wrong will not solve anything. Instead, work on understanding what is important to each of you, then finding a way to incorporate that and resolve your differences. Focus on the problem only long enough to understand what it is, then switch the focus of your discussion to what will work, and what will solve the problem that both of you can live with your mutual decision.
- While the kids are small, still do some family activities with all of you together.
- Introduce new partners slowly and very cautiously, hopefully time will pass before you do this. Don’t spring a new partner on your spouse or your children. Don’t say “This is your new Stepmother (Stepfather).” That will set you up for disaster.
While this takes some self-control, and isn't easy, it is worth learning to handle your situation in a grown-up manner, and keep what's best for the children in mind. You'll all be a lot happier, and your kids won't be left with burdens from your mistakes.
For more information about how not to fight, see Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage.