If you were able to communicate well with your ex-spouse, you probably wouldn’t be divorced, so how do you raise children together in a co-parenting relationship when your relationship with your ex-spouse is broken? Research has shown that there are long term emotional and psychological consequences for children of divorce when parents are continuously fighting. If you add blended families to the mix, it becomes even more complicated. According to Rosalind Sedacca, putting your children’s needs ahead of your own is the only way to go.
The key to raising well-adjusted children of divorce is finding ways to communicate better, even fighting more effectively-just not in front of the children. It may be that you’re willing to change your approach but your ex-spouse isn’t. That can lead to anger and frustration. It’s important to understand that you can’t affect other’s behaviors but you can affect your own.
These key messages can help you better communicate with your ex for the sake of the children:
- Don’t fight in front of your children. No matter how angry you are, your children model their behavior after you. It frightens them to see you fight with their other parent.
- Pick your battles. Don’t dig your heals about something that isn’t harmful to your child even if you disagree. It may mean explaining that there are different rules in Mom’s house versus Dad’s, but if it’s not a safety issue, ask yourself if it’s worth the fight.
- Never put your ex-spouse down in front of your children. Children are made up of two parents, putting down their parent makes them feel like there’s something wrong with them.
- Don’t try to micromanage everything your ex-spouse does. You can’t control other people. Master your own self-confidence and be clear in your own behavior.
- Reassure your children that even if they disagree with the other parent, you still love them no matter what.
Think about your fears and anxiety. Are you putting them on your children? When making decisions or judgements about your ex, think about your motivations. Do you really feel that strongly or are you fearful of something else? Are you worried your child might favor the other parent and that’s what’s motivating you? It’s up to parents to think about how what they say and do is going affect children. You need to consider your children’s emotional and psychological issues first. Children need to feel heard and respected. Don’t tell them how to feel or that they shouldn’t feel. Remember that you’re the parent, and it’s up to you to show that to your children.
Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? Her free ebook on Post Divorce Parenting, articles, coaching services and valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues are all available at www.childcentereddivorce.com.
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