4 Ways to Show Your Kids You Respect Their Other Parent
Kids – even infants – are attuned to the emotional cues provided by their parents. It comes as no surprise, then, that they notice how their parents speak about and behave toward each other.
As divorced parents, respecting your co-parent is critical to creating a secure and nurturing family environment for your children. Elaine and Michael Shimberg, co-authors of The Complete Single Father, adamantly argue that respecting one’s ex should be ground rule #1 in any co-parenting relationship. “We will not disagree or disrespect each other in front of our children. We will protect them.”
The question is, how do you do that? Here are some ideas.
Focus on your ex’s positive traits
You might find it challenging to think charitable thoughts about your ex right now. Do it anyway.
Ask yourself the question, “What does my child love about their mom or dad?” Maybe it’s the quick laughs and the easy jokes. Maybe it’s a specific talent that they have. If you can identify these qualities, acknowledge them to your children. “I appreciate that your mom does this.” “I am glad your dad does that.”
Consider setting a daily goal of mentally acknowledging one gratitude about your former spouse, even if it’s as simple as the fact that they picked up the kids on time.
Keep communication with your ex positive or neutral
Speaking negatively of your ex may feel cathartic in the moment, but whose well-being does it promote? In the long term, speaking poorly of your ex could damage your relationship with your child … especially if your complaints don’t correspond with your child’s experience.
- Use inclusive language that upholds the family unit. For example, the word “we” still applies to much of your family life.
- Keep communication with your ex concise. It may help to treat it as a business relationship with a clear purpose and transactional nature.
- If speaking to your spouse in person or by phone triggers negative feelings, consider text and email communication, which allows you to thoughtfully select your wording.
- Listen and ask follow-up questions when your child shares something about the other parent.
- If there is parental conflict, argue away the children.
Find more suggestions here: Advice for Divorced Parents of Young Children
Follow your parenting plan and custody arrangements
It can be challenging to relinquish control when you hand your child off to your ex. Your parenting styles may differ. Maybe the other parent doesn’t pack the kind of lunch you pack, or maybe they allow later bedtimes than you prefer. Remember the bottom line: Your child gets to spend quality time with their other parent courtesy of your parenting schedule.
- Avoid infringing on your ex’s parenting time. For example, try not to obsessively “check in” with your child when they’re with the other parent.
- Involve your co-parent in child-rearing decisions large and small. You probably have different perspectives, and like any partnership, the goal is to learn from each other.
- Make holidays and other milestones seem really special, even if you’re not going to be there. “You are going to have so much fun with Dad at the waterpark on your birthday this year!”
In high-conflict divorce, successful co-parenting may not be feasible. Learn about parallel parenting here: Is Parallel Parenting Your Solution to High-Conflict Co-Parenting?
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Prepare your child for timeshare transition time
A team mentality is vital to successful co-parenting. Just like you would directly pass the ball to your teammate, a big part of co-parenting is getting the pick-up/hand-off right.
- Plan transition details ahead of time. Will they need their backpack? Dance shoes? Paperwork for a school function? If your child is older, involve them in this conversation so they take some responsibility for the transition.
- Be punctual, and respect your co-parent’s time and plans with your child.
- Engage your child in conversation about upcoming events or fun activities they have scheduled with your co-parent.
- Help your child care for your ex-spouse in reasonable, age-appropriate ways. “Mommy is sad right now because Abuela is sick. Can you give her extra hugs tonight?”
Find more suggestions here: 26 Ways to Win at Co-Parenting this Year
A great way for you and your co-parent to respect each other is to enjoy your children together. Laugh about the hilarious things they say and do. Text pictures back and forth. These special people are part of both of you, and this is a unique connection that you are fortunate to share with your co-parent.
At Hello Divorce, we understand that divorce is a complex and challenging time. We’re dedicated to providing our readers with useful resources that make this transition easier and our clients with affordable plans and services that help them start their next life chapter on sure footing.