How to parent with a particularly difficult ex-spouse

Your marriage may be over, but you and your ex are parents for life. This means that as much as you might want to eliminate your ex from your life, you may be stuck working together to parent your children at least until they turn 18.

If your ex is particularly difficult to get along with, co-parenting effectively can be a huge challenge. However, an unsuccessful or high-conflict parenting experience will ultimately hurt your children, who probably want to maintain positive relationships with both parents. Although your ex may make the parenting experience more challenging than it needs to be, there are still actions you can take to facilitate the best possible experience for your children.

Set clear goals

If you want to improve the parenting experience despite a difficult ex, one of the first steps to take involves setting clear goals. For example, you may want your children to be happy and healthy. You may also want to maintain close relationships with each of your kids. Whatever your goals are, by identifying them you can better determine what actions are actually important for reaching those goals and what actions are not in service of those goals.

Recognize what is out of your control

Another step to improving the parenting experience involves not trying to control the things that are out of your control. For example, you may not be able to control how your ex parents. If your ex’s parenting style does not threaten the well-being of your children, try to let it go so you can reserve your energy for the things you can control. For example, when your children are staying with you, you can focus your energy on meeting your children’s needs and maintaining a close relationship with them.

Develop a strategy for low-conflict communication

In addition to setting goals and recognizing what is out of your control, your parenting situation may benefit from adopting a strategy for low-conflict communication. Co-parenting requires regular communication and collaborative decision-making, which may be next to impossible with a high-conflict ex. However, a particular type of co-parenting, called parallel parenting, allows parents to disengage with each other, while both remaining close with their children. This is usually done by requiring parental communication to be business-like, focused on the children and in writing when possible.

High-conflict parenting can be stressful for you and damaging to your children. Although your ex may not make it easy, there are steps you can take to help make your parenting experience as successful as possible.

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