The goal of co-parenting after divorce is simple: Like any other parent, you want to ensure that your kids are happy, healthy and set up for success in their future endeavors.
But when it’s a constant struggle to see eye to eye with your ex (hey, you’re divorced for reason) keeping that goal in mind is sometimes easier said than done. To help you stay on track, we asked HuffPost Divorce bloggers to share their best tips for reducing stress while co-parenting. See what they had to say below:
1. Try to think of your ex as a business partner.
The marriage may not have worked out but you can still be great parenting partners. Endeavor to put the past behind you and try to see your ex as your kids’ father or mother rather than your ex-spouse. Reminding yourself that your relationship is solely about the kids will do a world of good, said Valerie DeLoach, a mom of two.
“The biggest solution for me has been treating my relationship with my ex-husband as a business partnership,” she explained. “We share the same important goal of raising our children successfully, so we have to remove emotions, work together and respect each other’s decisions. It can sometimes feel impossible but you just have to stay focused on your shared goal.”
2. Keep track of expenses.
Want to avoid having to tell your ex he owes you money for summer camp? To sidestep uncomfortable discussions about money later down the road, blogger Shelley Wetton suggests creating a shared spreadsheet to keep track of expenses.
“My ex and I both remarried. In our households, the moms are in charge so one of us maintains an Excel spreadsheet delineating the costs for different items — school clothes, sports fees, yearbook pictures,” she said. “It’s made our lives much easier and peaceful.”
3. If you can’t bear to talk to your ex face to face, find other ways to communicate.
We can’t all be Gwyneth and Chris: If you went through a contentious divorce, the thought of having to co-parent with your ex may leave a bad taste in your mouth. To keep the lines of communication open for your kids’ sake, divorced mom Karen McMahon recommends looking into online resources or mobile co-parenting apps.
“After our divorce, my ex and I needed the ability to coordinate the children’s activities, playmates and expenses without constant communication,” she explained “We choose to work with cofamilies.com, a free, easy to use site that enabled us to share all necessary information — custody and activity schedules, doctor and friends’ names and numbers — without personal interactions that would cause arguments.”
4. Be flexible with the kids’ time.
It’s not easy to hear your kids say they want to spend Christmas with dad — or that they’d rather head to dinner with mom when it’s technically your weekend. As painful as it may be, you have to make your peace with it, said Terry Gaspard, a licensed therapist and the author of Daughters of Divorce.
“You have to be flexible. This is especially true when they’re teenagers since they never seem to be home anyway,” she said. “Don’t let missing them prevent you from seeing the whole picture. As I’ve learned firsthand, if you model flexibility and acceptance, they’ll be more likely to seek you out when they have a problem or need advice. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to let them know that you expect them to be home for some meals and special events. After all, you’re their parent!”
5. Keep your kids’ teachers informed.
Your family tree likely got a lot more complicated after divorce, especially if you or your ex remarried. The makeup of your blended family may make perfect sense to you, but it’s probably a lot harder for your kids’ teachers, sport coaches and music instructors to wrap their heads around. Do your best to fill them in, said Wetton.
“We take the time to ensure those nearest to our children understand our family dynamic,” she said. “We’ve found drawing a diagram to show how our family works is helpful since there are two boys and three sets of parents in our family. That said, it’s still not uncommon for me to receive a phone call for my son’s stepbrother. I have to explain that I’m not his mom — though I’d happily pick him up from school if he was sick and his parents weren’t reachable!”
6. Make sure your kids have all the essentials they need at both houses.
In the early days of her divorce, author Ann marie Houghtailing said figuring out where her son had left his clothes became a major stressor for her family.
“My ex-husband would inevitably forget my kid’s good jackets or shoes or swimming trunks. It was a constant frustration,” she explained. “I had to call to remind him and he would forget anyway. All of the lost and misplaced stuff caused tension and more resentment until one day I decided to buy cheaper clothes to send with him with no expectation of their ever being returned.”
These days, Houghtailing and her ex are concentrating on what matters: “Sweatshirts and pajamas are no longer on the list of things to be angry about. Now we focus on what’s important — our children.”
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