Co-parenting after divorce is not an easy task. In many divorce cases, there is resentment and anger in one or both parties.Yet these angry, resentful parents still have children that have to be raised.
Are your children going to be raised in a healthy, productive manner, or are they going to be subjected to the ongoing strife between the two most important people in their lives: their parents?
In an article entitled "Four Tips To Make Coparenting With Your Ex WAY Easier," therapist Alisa Jaffe Holleran said:
...even if your intention is to communicate effectively, you cannot MAKE the other person do it. People get frustrated because they feel like they try, but they can't control what their "co-parent" does. When you are holding out hope that your ex will co-parent with you, and then they don't, things get worse.
I share Holleran's view that it can be frustrating when one parent tries and the other just doesn't care.
In my divorce law practice in Monmouth County New Jersey, I come upon this problem quite frequently, where one parent is committed to establishing a healthy co-parenting relationship with the other parent, and the other parent is either disinterested or emotionally incapable of doing so.
In these situations, I think that Holleran's four steps can be very helpful:
"1. Accept what you can't control.
You could spend a lot of time and energy being aggravated by the things that your co-parent does, but don't waste time trying to change what you can't change!
Instead, channel that energy into some quality time with your kids.
Learning to accept what you can't control is NOT easy because it ends in grief, but even though grief is uncomfortable, it's an important (and necessary!) step toward moving on.
Accepting what you can't control frees up emotional energy that'll benefit your kids—no matter what your ex does.
2. Be PRESENT with your kids.
Don't waste the time you have with your kids being upset about your co-parent (or co-parenting situation). Why? Because when you're upset, you aren't present. And studies show that being present is the most important thing we can do for our kids!
Pay attention to them and practice mindfulness—focus on your breath, thoughts, feelings and physical sensations.
3. Make your home a calm and secure environment.
Since there are many things that you can't control or change about your ex, the best thing to do for your kids is provide a calm, grounded and secure environment.
If your kids are brought up in two homes, one emotionally chaotic and the other calm and stable, they will learn how to be calm and stable.
However, if they grow up in two homes that BOTH emotionally chaotic, they will only learn how to be emotionally chaotic.
Believing that your ex will ruin your kids creates emotional distress that contributes to your home being unstable, which you dont' want. Be aware of your beliefs and shift them to create a positive environment for your kids.
4. Focus on what is GOOD.
Many divorced co-parents have a great deal of guilt about the effect the divorce has on their kids. It's easy to focus on what's wrong and forget all the things that are right for your kids.
Notice good moments—they don't have to be extraordinary, they just have to be GOOD.
When you are not with your kids, imagine those moments and feel good about them. Remember that your ex can't take these moments away from you and your kids.
And NEVER underestimate the positive effect these feel-good moments have on your kids'!"
Holleran's four steps will probably not make things perfect, but they very well may make things good enough for your kids to thrive.
And that is your goal, isn't it?
You want your kids to not just survive your divorce in New Jersey, but you want them to thrive, whether or not your ex is cooperating with you in your efforts to jointly raise your children.