When you have kids, you can divorce your spouse but you can’t entirely be done with them until your children are grown. Co-parenting with your ex isn’t likely to be easy — especially when your ex brings the same toxic behavior into the situation that led to your divorce.
How can you manage? Try these tactics for dealing with an unreasonable co-parent:
- Don’t feed their resentments and anger: When your ex riles you up and you respond by “fighting fire with fire,” it just escalates the issues. Instead of responding to their attacks, immediately reframe the situation as a problem that could be addressed together. For example, if your ex says, “It’s your fault that our son is failing school,” you can respond by saying, “What are you doing differently when he’s at your house? Maybe I can incorporate those ideas.”
- Don’t disparage your ex to the kids, or allow yourself to be disparaged: It’s downright destructive to a child’s psyche to have a parent constantly trash-talking the other. Don’t engage in that kind of behavior yourself. If your ex indulges in it, you may need to revisit your parenting plan to formally address the issue.
- Keep communication channels formal but open: If your ex can’t carry on a conversation about the kids without veering into your issues with each other, it may be time to take a step back and communicate electronically, instead. It’s easier to ignore a vitriolic email or text than an angry person standing right in front of you.
- Don’t permit your ex to withhold access to the kids: If your ex seems to think that it’s acceptable to punish you by interfering with your parenting time or preventing you from contacting the kids, you should not accept that behavior. That’s absolutely a good reason to reconsider the current custody arrangements.
Once the sting of the divorce fades, your ex-spouse may eventually settle down and focus on parenting — like they should. If not, don’t be afraid to seek appropriate legal assistance.