September 2007 - Biting Your
Once you’re divorced or separated, it seems as if you should be free
of your ex and able to live your life without his or her influence. However,
if you are parents together, this is not a realistic expectation. You will be
parents together for the rest of your lives and although you don’t have
to live together or see each other often, you do have to find a way to function
together as parents.
Spirit of Acceptance
Your child has two parents and although you are not in love with each other
anymore, and in fact, may not even like each other, it’s best for your
child if you work together as parents. No matter what kind of parenting arrangement
you may have – shared custody, sole custody, or residential custody with
visitation – you must still find a way to work together as a team.
As you’ve already learned, you cannot change who the other parent is,
nor how he or she does things. This was true in your marriage and it remains
true as you parent together. Part of parenting together is accepting who the
other person is and learning to live with it. It may not be easy to put up with
the things about the other parent that drive you crazy – lateness, neatness,
snide comments, lack of attention to details, pickiness – whatever it
is. But learning to do this is part of your job as a divorced parent.
Watch Your Words
As you and the other parent work through your journey as parenting partners,
it’s likely that you will have clashes. Even if you had the most amicable
divorce in the world, as you parent it is almost certain that resentments, jealousy,
outrage, and other negative feelings will plague you at some point. It’s
difficult to parent together when you rarely are together. You’re each
growing into different people than you were when you were married. As the years
pass you may become more and more unfamiliar to each other.
One of the most important skills you will need to work effectively with the
other parent is communication. Because you are not parenting in the same home,
it is essential that you learn to communicate with each other about your child.
Learning how and when to talk to each other is an important skill, but perhaps
the most important skill is learning how to say nothing at all.
Silence is Golden
If you constantly criticize or complain to the other parent, your relationship
will evolve into a negative one. Always pointing out what he or she is doing
wrong just feeds the fire of resentment and anger. It is not your job to point
out everything the other parent is doing wrong. That’s not your responsibility
anymore. One of the best things you can do to create a supportive co-parenting
environment is to try not to say anything negative. Instead focus on sharing
information about your child, making plans that will benefit your child, and
saying something nice once in a while.
If you are in a very difficult parenting relationship where every communication
you have with each other seems to end in an argument, you need to cut back on
your face to face communication. Try email, instant messenger, texting, or even
sending notes back and forth.
Parent Together, But Apart
You and the other parent are part of a parenting team, but you’re each
on the field at different times. Trying to set up some common boundaries and
rules is helpful to everyone, but you can’t and shouldn’t try to
control what is happening when the other parent is in charge. You have to let
go and let the other parent do things his or her way – without commenting
on it, criticizing or offering a better way to do it.