30 Jan
  • By Cosette Bowles
  • Cause in

Is Parenting With Your Ex Causing You Stress?

Parenting with your ex can sometimes be daunting and stressful.  In the best of circumstances parenting is challenging.  According to Pew Research, more than one-in-five children experience a parental break up by the age of 9.  Even more, if a separation or divorce is not amicable children are often in the crossfire of their parent’s emotions.  Developing tools for success are crucial for successfully rearing children and making them feel safe, loved and protected.  And, children deserve the best of us and all the love we have.  Our relationship with our children and our behavior will shape their view of the world and future relationships for years to come.

You may not be able to avoid conflict but here are six important tools to help shape a positive relationship with your ex and promote positive communications that are valuable and useful.

  1. Put Ego and Pride Aside. Checking our feelings at the door is important to opening the door to success.  While we can be deeply emotional about the behavior of our ex, our view of how our behavior affects our children should be paramount.  Humility is not outmoded and can assist us to see our ex’s side of a particular challenge or circumstance, place ourselves in a position of empathy and deepen our understanding of problems that affect our children.  Pride can make us ball our fists when unbaling fist helps to better problem solve.
  2. Focus on Your Children’s Joy and Health. Our ultimate responsibility as parents is to ensure that our children are protected and happy.  Focusing on their wellbeing takes the focus off our sometimes brittle relationship(s) with our ex’s and our circumstances.  Let your children know that both of you care about their happiness.
  3. Develop Ground Rules. Setting the stage for communications assists parents to stay focused and clear about how to communicate and when.  For instance a strategy that may work could include being on time for meetings, being intentional about how long meetings will last; not leaving abruptly, not showing anger in front of the children or outlining specific responsibilities that include something as simple as taking turns for who will provide refreshments for school activities and when.
  4. Cultivate Courage. Parenting with your ex can push important issues down. We may ignore or be in denial about topics that are difficult to discuss. Having the courage to discuss tough topics ensures that important decisions are not pushed to the side.
  5. Seek Counseling. Self-care is crucial to healing and moving forward.  Paying attention to one’s mind, body and soul is important to being whole and even more important to taking care of our children.  Hurting parents hurt their children. If things are unraveling or if the relationship continues to be the source of hurt counseling may be in order.
  6. Don’t Badmouth Your Ex. Remember your children’s self-worth is tied to both parents.  Saying negative things or allowing others to say negative things in front of children can deplete their confidence as well as teach children to be disrespectful.  Children are like sponges and they are always watching our behavior.  It’s impossible to always present our best selves – however, it helps when our children witness our efforts to try and be our best selves.
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Cosette Bowles
M.A., L.P.C., L.M.F.T.

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