Co-parenting with your ex: moving away from conflict

Co-parenting support discussion

When two people decide to have children, it’s a responsibility that stays with them for the rest of their lives. This may seem obvious as an intention, but when a marriage or relationship breaks down, whether it’s a mutual decision or an acrimonious ending, both parents are often caught up in some level of emotion. Co-parenting with your ex can be tough.


Add into that mix that there’s often been a breach or breakdown of trust that has ended the relationship, which not only causes anger and hurt, it also causes parents to not want to be near each other. Very quickly separation can enter high conflict with parents scrambling for whatever means they can find to ‘win’ over their ex. And unfortunately, this can often mean battles over children.


Helping you co-parent after separation


At The Co-Parent Way we work with parents at all stages of separation and beyond. And there is something we categorically know: when emotions are running high, it’s hard for parents to remain fully focussed on their children, who can sometimes get lost amid the stresses and practicalities of separation. As a result, children can be left feeling confused, unsafe, and unstable.


Effective co-parenting means that parents consciously put aside their negative feelings towards each other; refocus their attention on their children; and take decisions that benefit their children. Not liking or trusting your ex makes it harder to do those things.


Co-parenting with your ex: making it work


I’d like you to take a second to remember those first moments when your children were born, and remind yourself of those feelings of fierce love and responsibility that washed over you. You may get used to those feelings, but the responsibility of being a parent never goes away. When we are no longer in a relationship with someone, it doesn’t mean we stop being a parent with them. So, the first thing you need to do on your journey of co-parenting, is realise that although your family system has changed shape it’s still got two parents in it.


Co-parenting is the best way to protect our children’s mental and emotional health following a relationship breakdown. Keeping them front and centre during our co-parent decision-making will help them to develop into resilient children and then resilient adults.


And if that means becoming a co-parent and learning how to manage the powerful emotions we feel towards our ex, that’s something we have to do for the sake of the children.


Think of it like this; You’re walking along the pavement with your child and suddenly their ball bounces into the road and they run after it without thinking. There’s a bus coming. What do you do? You instinctively run out into the road to protect them, right? You would automatically do everything you could to save their life. You would even put your own physical safety at risk to do so.


It’s no different with our children’s mental health. We need to do everything we can to protect their emotional well-being. If we don’t try to co-parent, or we think that destroying our child’s relationship with their other parent means we win, then think again. If we’re doing that, then we’re putting our child’s mental and emotional health directly in front of the bus.


Five steps to help you co-parent with an ex you don’t get along with.


  1. Accept that they are still a parent. Whatever you think or whatever you would like to happen, you are both still the parents of your children. You can’t change this, and so you have a choice. Spend the next decade in conflict with someone, or accept that this has been an unpleasant period and show up to parenting with them, whatever you’re feeling about them.
  2. Take responsibility for your part in co-parenting. You can’t change your ex, you can’t change their thoughts or behaviours, you can only modify your own, to better serve the situation that you’re in. This is not about giving up power or control, but it’s about choosing the best way for you to show up to co-parenting so your kids will grow up in a safe and stable environment.
  3. Be respectful on the outside, whatever you feel on the inside. Similarly to the point above. If you can manage to remain respectful, have conversations with your ex about your children and take decisions about the children together then your kids will feel safe and stable. All they need to see is that both their parents are doing this without hating each other, that both their parents can still be parents together and communicate about them.
  4. Self-manage your emotions. In order to be respectful on the outside, you need to be able to self-manage your emotions. Moments in front of the children aren’t the time to be wearing your heart on your sleeve. When you’re feeling strong emotions (and you will), do that when the children aren’t there, do it with friends or family, get some external support. If you can manage to self-manage in those difficult moments, you’re really stepping up for your children.
  5. Do The Co-Parent Way course to get practical help to achieve all of the above. Either engage us personally or take our self-paced online course. Both approaches are very practical and parents come away knowing exactly how to go about working with someone they no longer trust or like.  

The Co-Parent Way is a registered trademark. All methodologies and intellectual property are not to be reproduced in any way. The Co-Parent Way is a trading name of Rolling Stone Coaching.

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