"Throughout this book, I felt Bruce had a secret window into my own life and private thoughts. Many private feelings I am currently dealing with were addressed and revealed in a manner that made me feel it is not only normal, but I am truly not alone in this. I was surprised that I cried while reading it and the comfort that the words brought me. I read tons of self-help books, among other types of books, and this book actually gives me hope and things to look forward to. My tears were from the fact that I am facing the words I read. I have been getting negative feedback from outside sources and these words reassured me not to listen, keep them out of your life and do what is right. The section on the other home/parent opened my eyes and freed me. I did not go into reading this book thinking it would help me on such a deep emotional level." ~Dorothy Justice, Vice Chair-Community Action Partnership

May 13, 2013

Co-parenting with a Difficult Ex Effectively

Seven significant ways to effectively co-parent with a difficult ex:
Children who must face ongoing fighting and conflict between their parents while they also endure the changes prompted by their parents’ separation or divorce would struggle more with anxiety and depression. Moreover, children who cope with an absent parent as a result of divorce have more behavioral issues. Its best to find a working balance with your ex—provided they are not a menacing or damaging aspect to your child’s life.

Here are ways to identify a difficult ex:

  •  Opposes any decisions or suggestions you make
  • Actively diminish the influence you may have on parenting decisions by making important decisions without collaboration
  • Needs to constantly compete and win against you
  • Acts out defiantly against you by inappropriately using the children as a vice
  • Manipulates the children to love them more than you
  • Talks negatively about you in front of the children.

Seven significant ways to effectively co-parent with a difficult ex:

1. Know your boundaries.  All communication with your ex should remain about your children. Set limits for how your ex responds to you during co-parenting, and how decisions are made for the children.

2. Enforce your boundaries. Stick to your comprehensive separation agreement, divorce decree, and parenting plan.

3. Defer to Mediation or law counselor for uncompromising or legal related issues.
4. Document and use legal documentation. Learn and understand what is admissible in court.
5. Move on. You cannot and do not want to control the other parent and what is going on in other household. On the other hand, inspire.
6. Inspire. Be a positive role model and influence for your children through your own example. This will benefit your children more than engaging in competition with your ex spouse. This mindset is healthier and more effective than trying to figure out and counterbalance the type of parent your ex is being.
7. Focus on the Children. Overall, you cannot bargain with someone who treats you like the enemy. When dealing with a difficult co-parent, the best interest of the children should stay the center of focus.

Four vital ways to manage emotions through a growing conflict:

1. Find empathy. Whether you turn to therapy, family, friends, spiritual leaders, a combination of these, or something entirely different that helps you find your way, it is critical that you reach out and allow yourself to be supported during this adjusting period. 
2. Look for distress signs. If you begin to notice some differences in behavior or emotion in yourself or your children (including a lack of emotional expression or withdrawal), somatic complaints (e.g., headaches, stomachaches, sleep difficulties), or other changes, it would be wise to reexamine the level of tension and conflict.  Rather than chalk it up to the divorce with hopes everyone will adjust and time will heal, re-engage your child—your spoken words are essential to keep your child caught up and involved. If it’s challenging to come up with the right questions and associated resolve, develop a new platform in your relationship. Find an outlook that will distract them- connecting in a new setting will help on their terms with hopes in time they will share their feelings openly on the matter.

3. Boost your esteem. By being sympathetic and non-judgmental to not only yourself and others, you are able to avoid both harsh self-criticism and a potentially fragile self-enhancement. Showing self-compassion will help the most—a sort of antitoxin to the soul. Think about positive aspects: Positive distractions support nice memories and Self-compassion fosters kindness without evaluating or judging.

4. Recognize unresolved feelings.  If you are struggling or coping with any anxiety over the breakup or having new relationship issues, it is time to forge new strategies and concepts, where your children really become the primary focus.  If you are focused instead on keeping score, denying your co-parent’s requests because you don’t want them to get their way, or caught up in regular arguments, go back to #1. 
For readers interested in learning more about children’s needs during this period, I recommend Gary Neuman’s “Sandcastles book.  Another resource is “Mom’s House, Dad’s House by Isolina Ricci.  This book has a supportive approach on the grown-up stuff moving through separation, divorce and effective co-parenting.  Naturally, I would recommend my own book, “Parenting After Divorce: Rebuilding Your Life and Reaffirming the Relationships that Matter.” I portray the strategies, philosophies and concepts that helped in my family’s success getting past the bumps and therefore the trials of divorce, while coping with an adversarial co-parent.

Bruce Buccio resides in Colorado, USA, is Single Dad, Rebuilding Coach and Expert, Mediator, and Author. Today, he writes primarily inspired by experiences raising his children, but also writes about inspiration, growth, and love.

Copyright © 2013 Bruce Buccio

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