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Co-Parenting: How to Make it Easier

Getting divorced is never an easy process. This is especially true if you have young children. In fact, even in cases where both you and your ex amicably agreed to end a marriage and opted for a less-adversarial collaborative divorce, things can change after the ink on a divorce agreement dries.

Having a child with someone means that, for better or worse, you and that person will forever be tied together. For divorced parents, this can be a difficult reality to face and many struggle to set aside their own feelings about an ex and to move forward for the benefit of a shared child.

At some point or another, all divorced parents will likely encounter co-parenting challenges. Below are some of the most common mistakes parents make as well as tips to keep in mind that can make co-parenting easier.

Three Co-Parenting Mistakes

1) Arguing in front of your child - While a child may have been forced to endure his or her fair share of seeing you and your ex argue while you were all living under the same roof, you owe it to your child to ensure that those days remain in the past. Yes, there may be times when your ex says or does something that is upsetting, but yelling and shouting will only damage your child, further erode your relationship with an ex and make co-parenting more difficult.

2) Putting your child in the middle - In cases where you and an ex share physical custody of a child, it can be tempting to ask your son or daughter to tell mom or dad something or to inquire about details pertaining to your ex's life. Doing so, however, puts your child in an awkward position and can cause a child to feel confused, anxious and resentful.

3) Failing to communicate - If you thought communication was a problem during your marriage, such problems are likely to be even more pronounced and problematic after a divorce. As much as you may dislike it, you have to find a way to effectively communicate with your ex about your child. Some divorced parents find that it's easier to keep exchanges with an ex short and businesslike and to only communicate via email or text.

Three Co-Parenting Successes

1) Putting your child first - While this point may seem obvious, at times, divorced parents may allow their emotions to take over and consequently do or say things that are harmful or hurtful to a child. As a parent, it's important to always remember that it's your job to protect your child and serve as a positive role model.

2) Getting on the same page - For the benefit of your child, it's crucial that you and your ex discuss and come to an agreement about various childrearing aspects. This can be particularly challenging and frustrating in cases where, during a marriage, one parent took on the lion's share of responsibility. With all of the changes that accompany divorce, more than ever, your child needs consistency when it comes to his or her daily routine, rules, discipline, homework and bed and meal times.

3) Forgiving yourself - After a divorce, you and your child need to heal and your family has to adjust to many changes and find a way to move forward. In the months and years after a divorce, you may experience times of sadness and regret and may feel guilty about things you said or did in the past-especially when you think about how your words and actions may have affected your child. A big part of the healing process is about forgiving yourself, letting go of guilt and vowing to do better for yourself and your child.

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