By: Alan E. Freed
Parenting is hard work, even when both parents live under the same roof. Once the parents separate, that job can become a lot harder, particularly when the parents are mistrustful and angry with each other. Simple requests (“Will you take Clarence to his ballet class so I can get Matilda to her hockey game?”) become power struggles when Mom and Dad are trying to figure out how to handle the single-parent life while licking their wounds from the divorce process.
It doesn’t have to be so hard. If you think of divorce as a pitched battle between injured warriors, each accusing the other of wrongdoing, you are going to create casualties–not just your children, but also yourself. If, instead, you think of divorce as a surgical procedure—taking a family that is not functioning well in a single household and dividing it into two households—you open the possibility of planning for a life of cooperative co-parenting.
While the divorce process goes on, generally at least several months, and often considerably longer, you have an opportunity to establish new patterns and routines with your children’s other parent. The choice is yours: You can choose to treat the other parent with hostility, flinging accusations with every phone call and text message, or with respect, acting towards them as you would a business partner, since you are, necessarily, in the business of jointly raising your children.
If you choose the hostile approach, you can be sure to be met with similar disdain. That anger you feel towards the other parent will be felt by your children when they are in both parents’ homes, whether you share your thoughts with them or not. Additionally, the repercussions of your actions may be felt by you for years to come, as actions taken in haste and hate now cannot be taken back.
If, on the other hand, you elect to take the high road, setting aside your resentment and hurt and focusing, instead, on the need for your children to feel loved by both parents, your life will also be enhanced. Your children will be happier, and so will you, as you expend less energy on non-productive communication and more on settling in to your new, post-divorce routines. Whether your ex chooses to act in a similar fashion or not, you won’t be sorry for acting well instead of acting out.
Talk to your counselor or therapist and your lawyer about steps you can take today to improve co-parenting. Don’t wait until the divorce is over; start now. You’ll be glad you did.