by Brette Sember
The New Year is a time when many of us push the reset button on our diets, budgets, attitudes, and goals. This year, why not add your parenting relationship to the list?
Think About Your Own Behavior
Take some time and look critically at how you’ve performed as a co-parent. Co-parenting is definitely a tough task and you get kudos for everything you’ve done, but it’s likely you haven’t been perfect (who has?).
Train an unbiased eye on yourself and how you’ve interacted with the other parent. Have you lost your temper with the other parent in front of your child? Been unwilling to be flexible with arrangements (and secretly enjoyed sticking it to him just a little bit?)? Let an unpleasant word about your ex slip to your child? Done things to make life just a little difficult for the other parent? If you have, first of all, forgive yourself. Then decide that you’re going to move forward into the new year with new intentions and attitudes.
Change the Ballgame
Instead of the constant push-pull of “me against him,” adopt a completely new attitude about co-parenting. Focus instead on your child and have all interactions and decisions focus on that. Doing what is best for your child ensures that he or she has access to two parents in a guilt-free way. You’re never going to completely lose all of your resentment or bitterness about your break up or divorce, but what you can do is compartmentalize that and remind yourself that those are your issues, not your child’s issues. Resolve to keep guilt out of the equation for your child and anger away from your ex whenever possible.
No matter what your relationship with your ex is like, it unlikely he’s going to thank you for being the good gal in all of this. Therefore, start to reward yourself for the positive changes you make to the relationship. After each successful no-argument custody transfer, do something nice for yourself. It can be simple like a cup of tea and some good music or more extravagant like permission to buy a new pair of shoes if you really kept your temper in check at a difficult moment. Whatever you do, you’ll come to associate good things with the positive interactions with your ex, and this will progressively make it easier to do so on a regular basis.
Ask for a Fresh Start
If you are able to, this is a good time to communicate your new intentions to your ex. Suggest that both of you try to approach your co-parenting without baggage. Tell him you want to focus on your child, not what has happened between you and ask if he can try that too. Offer to shake on it and try to manage a smile. There is research that shows that people who force themselves to smile actually feel happier, so if you can make yourself smile during this interaction and future ones, there’s a good chance you’ll come away feeling better about everything.
Brette McWhorter Sember is a retired family attorney and mediator and nationally known expert about divorce and parenting after divorce. She is the author of The Divorce Organizer & Planner (McGraw-Hill), How to Parent With Your Ex: Working Together for Your Child’s Best Interest (Sourcebooks), The Complete Divorce Handbook (Sterling), and No-Fight Divorce: Spend Less Money, Save Time, and Avoid Conflict Using Mediation (McGraw-Hill). Her web site is BretteSember.com.