Think of what I am offering here as an approach and think about how you can cultivate this approach in your self and and how you interact with your your ex.
Over the years I have worked with some incredible men; men who are divorced or separated from a partner and having to manage co-parenting with someone who can be quite uncooperative.
Remember, you are co-parents forever and I realize that this can be very difficult at times but there are a few things that can help orient you in a better way.
1) Take care of yourself! Many single fathers believe that they must sacrifice in order to parent and that is only somewhat true. Investing time into your kids is not just about them, but it is also about you and what you get out of those relationships.
What I am really referring to here is that some dads tend to forsake basic self care and then run on fumes or worse, run on empty. This just breeds frustration and resentment and makes navigating and negotiating even more difficult.
2) Be clear about your role as a co-parent. The ultimate goal, as a mentor of mine once said, “is to import babies and export adults.”
In other words, a big part of your job as a co-parent is socializing your kids to be able to adjust and function in the world. You are responsible for your child’s safety, well-being and being responsive to their changes and transformations.
3) You CAN NOT control your ex. Just give that up. That does not mean you can’t influence your ex. You can do that by regulating yourself.
Do not complain and blame your ex. Do not argue, fight or engage on that level with your ex. This turns child rearing into a power struggle and is not focused on the goal of helping, supporting, protecting and nurturing your child/children.
4) Expect differences in your visions of child rearing. You are not the same people. You are people with different histories, experiences and outlooks. You will have differences and believe different things. Seek to navigate and discuss those differences with your ex-partner, always reminding them about the goal, what is good for the kids and how can WE achieve that without killing each other or ourselves in the process.
5) NEVER EVER use your kids as leverage against your ex. It doesn’t work and has damaging long term impact on your kids. Keep clear, focused and goal oriented.
6) Never ever let your ex use your kids as leverage against you. Point it out, address it and refocus the navigation and negotiation back toward the real goal of co-parenting, which is: What is best and appropriate for the kids that supports everyone’s well-being!
7) Be clear and strong in your communications. For instance, “It is not ok that (be specific about behavior) i.e: to not have the kids ready when we have agreed for a time for me to pick them up. I am sure you will agree that it is not good for them and their sense of time management.”
Another way is, “listen I know it can be difficult getting the kids together in the morning. Is there anything that I can do to help you with that? When the kids are not ready on time, it means they get to school late and then I get to work late.
You get the message here, right? Your goal is to remind your ex of the goals of co-parenting and NOT make the navigation or negotiation a power struggle.
8) You may have to say things over and over again, or take stronger action. Depending on where you are and how you are going about the separation process, there are steps that you can take when you keep trying to do the diplomatic thing and you simply find that it is not working. Remember where we started from, you must take care of yourself first.
9) Your kids are watching you more than they are listening to you. Everything you say, don’t say, do and don’t do, how you say it, how you don’t say it and how you do it or don’t do it is what kids learn from and model most. The second thing they learn from and model is how you treat them and how you respond to how they treat you. RESPECT, FIRMNESS and KINDNESS are the three ways of being that can help you navigate your relationship with your kids.
10) Let go of any idea of perfect parenting! To borrow from Winnicott, seek “good enough” parenting instead of perfect parenting. Co-parenting can be very challenging. Don’t be too hard on yourself or too perfectionistic.
Remember, kids are more resilient than most people think or give them credit for.
Lead with love – it’s easier and better on you and your kids!
Eric G. Schneider © 2019, www.ericgschneider.com
Permission to reprint using complete attribution (My name and web address)