How a Parenting Coordinator Helps With a Horrible Ex Get Help When You Need It

How a Parenting Coordinator Helps With a Horrible Ex Get Help When You Need It

Do you have a former spouse that continues to make your life miserable after divorce? Do you feel as though there is way too much interaction and she believes it’s too little? Did you get divorced so you didn’t have to deal with her and now it feels like all you do is hear from her? A parenting coordinator helps get through this communication impasse. It’s true that the stress of prior relationships can weigh heavily on all of us. When you share children, especially young children, interaction will likely happen for many years. Learning to manage the communication is vital to supporting what’s best for your kids and what’s good for you too.

How a Parenting Coordinator Helps

A parenting coordinator helps people figure out how to support their kids and communicate with their former spouse. Often, it’s important to sit down with both people, as parents of the children, to figure out what went wrong and where it can get better. In my practice, I have found four critical tools to success for parents where communication is non-existent to extraordinarily high conflict. You can make it better, for you and your kids, by using these practical tips, either with the help of a Parent Coordinator, or by trying to implement them on your own. My experience suggests the higher the level of conflict the more necessary a parenting coordinator may be, but getting started somewhere is better than having things continue as they have. Give it a try and reach out as needed.

Manage Expectations Around Communications

Does your Divorce Agreement set out how to plan for your children? Is there already a method in place to do so? If so, this is a great “jumping off point” for your communication. Although quoting your Agreement can sound formal and off-putting, it may be time to suggest it. Often, my clients do much better when a structure is in place for their communication. They do better when they have a framework for success.

If you Agreement doesn’t talk about how to plan, you likely need to create some Agreement about how things will go. If things have not gone well, it’s likely important to consider talking with your spouse with a Parenting Coordinator as a professional is likely able to create a framework to help you begin talking productively again. If you can’t do that, it’s likely you will need to meet, in person, or by email to work together on how to manage what needs to be decided. Remember, most adults don’t like to be told what they must do and how they must do it. If you are starting the communication, use words like “cooperate” and “strategize” to create a collaborative environment. Find out, from your ex, what they need to make the plans for your kids work.

If often makes sense to build in deadlines around when things are decided, and to build in flexibility too. Sometimes one parents gets first choice, and the next year it shifts to the other parent. Whatever you and your ex decide, make certain there is give and take about how it will occur. This step is about how to approach communication and not the actual plan. However, this step is often most crucial to success. Even if you dislike your ex intensely, you love your children. Figuring out how to negotiate with her is crucial to your success. Instead of spending time thinking it can’t be done, figure out how it can!

Develop A Plan

Next, once you’ve opened a chain of positive communication with your Ex about the need to do better, execute on your plan to do so. This is just the beginning so don’t assume just because you want something, and think it’s right, you will get your way. Remember that it wasn’t always easy to convince your intimate partner about parenting issues and it won’t get easier now. However, if you are willing to listen as much as you speak, in email, and give a little to get a little, you and your children may find success. A good plan is the best way to achieve success and prepare for unexpected bumps in the road too.

The most important part of developing a plan is to begin to create a system for decision making that allows you and your ex a voice in what happens. Again, it’s usually fairest to allow taking turns for important holidays or vacation choosing but do what works for you and for your ex too. Remember that BOTH of you need to feel empowered to be good parents to your children and providing that neutral support by creating a framework to allow it will get you much further than making demands.

Also, and this is crucial to planning, try to avoid multiple issue emails and get rid of texting for plans altogether. Limit your communication about an issue to one chain of emails on a particular topic. It’s easy to stay organized this way and to have documentation about what you have agreed to do too. You can easily create folders in your email to save the various threads and they will be a handy referral when you need to check what was said about a particular issue. Keep in mind, too, that email can be an unforgiving medium. Many of my female clients complain their exes are “mean” in email. In some cases, this is true, but in other cases a direct tone, without any softening words, can seem too demanding and stern. You should deal with your ex as you would a business colleague, that is, be direct but also kind. You do not need to express how you personally feel about her, ever, in email to her. Save those words for therapy!

Practice

You will likely need lots of practice with your ex to create the co-parenting relationship you want for you and your kids. This practice happens when you write emails, get the response you hope for, or don’t get that at all. Each communication is an opportunity to learn what works, in general, and in particular for your spouse.

I worked with one couple who seemed at an impasse to plan the yearly calendar. It turned out the mother was overwhelmed by dad sending an excel spreadsheet with calendar suggestions for the entire year. We talked about breaking down the data contained in the spreadsheet to simple lists and, voila, problem solved. Instead of ignoring the info, mom felt she could manage the same material in bite size monthly nuggets. Dad was thrilled and felt he could then plan for the year. Instead of criticizing mom’s aversion to spreadsheets (which he may have internally done), he acted in a way that served him and his kids to get what he and they needed. Mom is much happier too as she doesn’t feel like she’s ignoring critical information.

Inevitably, disagreements will arise. Using your new style of communication, however, you will remember that you do not need to personally criticize the other parent to make your point. Usually, if something can’t be agreed to after three rounds of email, it makes sense to spend a couple hours of mediation so that a parenting coordinator can help figure out if the matter can be resolved. Doing so may save you lots of time and grief in the future too as a new method of approach may be developed in the process.

Don’t Take It Personally

No matter how carefully you choose your words, you may get some unpleasant communication at least occasionally. Remember that you ex isn’t dealing with you in a vacuum and may be having a bad day, month, year for many other reasons. Responding in kind is likely to only escalate conflict so, if you can, don’t respond at all for a period of time. See if a little time allows cooler heads to prevail. Revisit the issue without personal attack and try to get back on track.

In sum, it is possible to manage a situation with even a horrible ex successfully. The key is your mindset towards success and your willingness not to engage, on the same level, as a co-parent who might bring negative energy and intent to your communications. The simple steps above coupled with the help of a parenting coordinator helps to establish open communications. Remember that you bear half of the responsibility for the way the relationship with your ex is managed, for you and your children. You will never control what they think or even say about you, but you can control how you respond and how you communicate directly. Taking the high road may not always feel satisfying in the moment, but keeping your kids from the conflict, and getting support for yourself will reveal success for you and your kids in the long run. It’s a long road when you are co-parenting with an ex, but your kids are worth it. And so is your peace of mind.

You May Need To Change Your Behavior Even If She’s The Problem Managing Your Responses to Your Crazy Ex May Help Your Kids

You May Need To Change Your Behavior Even If She’s The Problem Managing Your Responses to Your Crazy Ex May Help Your Kids

Are you divorced or separated and exhausted by the interactions with your former or soon-to-be former spouse? Does it feel, some days, like you get no respite from the crazy? Do you respond in kind to her rants in an attempt to stop it? Do your kids get caught in the verbal cross-fire or notice when you are angry or upset with their mother? Are you at your wit’s end about how to manage? You have learned that no matter what you do you cannot change your former spouse. She rants, she raves, she tries to control what and how you do things no matter what. Getting outraged with her has made no difference. In fact, the only result is that you may feel depleted after you’ve expended energy to attempt to put her in her place.

What then, can you do? The answer may be simpler than you imagine is possible. You may want to sit down for this because it will surprise you. You may need to shift what you do in response to her to change the way things are going. You may need to change. Now, let’s be very clear: we aren’t talking about blaming you. In fact, let’s set aside the idea that you play any role in the unreasonable behavior of your former spouse. It’s surely true our exes know just how to “push those reactive buttons” that make us roar but what if you mostly don’t take the bait? I recommend three techniques that I have found both useful and productive for my clients. It is important to give them a little time to work. It took you and your former spouse a long time to develop the pattern you have now. Shifting the manner in which you interact now will take time too. But it may preserve your sanity and, most importantly, allow you to co-parent your children for many years to come and allow your children to flourish.  What’s better than that?

1. Stay Calm No Matter The Outrageous Behavior

Have you ever noticed that once someone escalates a situation, with their voice or behavior, everyone else tends to get worked up too? What if you don’t do that? What happens, if you are screamed at—in person or by text or email—but you don’t respond in kind? You may be surprised to learn than escalation responded to with additional escalation is not very good for you or anyone else. In fact, it’s also true that the most successful people learn how to manage their emotions even when situations are very heightened. http://bit.ly/2HLVOyf Otherwise, your ability to focus and avoid anxiety is diminished. So, even if she tells you (or worse yet, your kids) that you have done something wrong, do not take the bait. If a response is required, deal with the underlying issue and none of the other stuff. Also, and this may be most important, take a break before responding. This is, perhaps, the single most important way to keep calm when under attack. If no one is on fire and there is no immediate logistical issue to be addressed, wait to respond, and only do that if it’s necessary

2. Know When To Hold ‘Em And When To Fold ‘Em

As Kenny Rogers, the country crooner once soulfully said in a song written in 1976 by Don Schlitz:

You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.

These sage words, written for a gambler, are just as important to someone who is divorced. In fact, in divorce communications it’s always better to check your ego at the door permanently. Just because something inaccurate is said to or about you does not mean a response is necessary. Explaining a falsehood or misrepresentation is mostly a misguided and time-wasting exercise.

In the event you are worried about what others will think if you don’t make it right, remember this: people may enjoy the gossip around your divorce but, honestly, they don’t really care about the details. Sure, juicy tidbits are fun for most people to hear, especially those who don’t want to focus on the mess of their own lives, but they don’t really have the time, energy or inclination to sort out the truth of the matter. In fact, if they are so interested in you, they likely already know. If they don’t, why should they? One of the most painful parts of divorce is letting go of people you supposed were friends. In fact, they may have been friendly, school acquaintances of your kids or just people in your life who love good gossip (and who like to avoid their own mess at home). Whoever they are, take a deep breath and let it go. Fighting to win the friend or convincing anyone of anything (unless you are in a court of law, god forbid) is likely not worth it. Deal with your co-parent as needed on issues important for your kids. And let the rest go.

When you need to communicate, choose email or text except when a communication is urgent. Be direct, kind and include any important deadlines for a response. Don’t badger after sending an email and only follow up if no response arrives timely according to the issue at hand. Keep your opinions to yourself and include only what’s needed to move the ball forward for your kids. Straightforward honest and kind communication, without extraneous details, goes a long way to improving your relationship with your former spouse. Or, at least, keeping you sane while dealing with a difficult personality who may never change.

3. Give It Time

The only certainty is change. If you can hold this idea high in your mind during and post-divorce, you can recognize that the high conflict dynamic, if you have one, can shift. Sometimes it has nothing to do with how people behave, although it certainly can, but it can simply be a matter of time. People calm down, heal or get their attention diverted to something else. Whatever occurs, you do not need to think that because things are bad now, they will always be this way. So, instead of trying to “fix” the problem, just do what’s needed and give it time. In fact, it’s preferable to do what’s needed, and no more, in order to avoid additional escalation. It may seem counterintuitive, as many believe more is always better but, sometimes, less is just right. Communicate only when needed about what’s needed.

If you can make your focus your work, kids and social life, including your family and friends, you may just find that you don’t need the conflict to sustain you. A connection, even with conflict, is just that. Whether it’s you or your spouse, staying escalated with each other is way more energy than required to co-parent your kids. Try to think of your former spouse as a business contact with whom you need to have a long and productive relationship for the most important product of all: your child(ren). Even if you have nothing in common, and active distaste for each other, you did manage to have a family at one point and time. So, now, create whatever boundaries you need to keep an arm’s length, child focused view of your former spouse.

In sum, although you can never change your former spouse, and she may be wrong and driving you crazy, you can decide what about her behavior is intolerable for you. When you know, do what it takes to acknowledge it, to yourself, and then let it go. Don’t harass, rant, rave or otherwise create additional escalation for yourself or your child(ren). By doing everything you can to contain and take care of yourself and your children, you will do far better for you and them in the long run. In the meantime, make sure you have the support you need and that your children do too. It can get better and you can be a part of the plan to make that happen.

Fighting Over Money You Pay Your Ex Divorce Advice for Men on Child Support Disputes

Fighting Over Money You Pay Your Ex Divorce Advice for Men on Child Support Disputes

Are you outraged about the money you pay your ex for child support? Do you spend a lot of time wondering what she does with your money that doesn’t involve support of your children? Do your thoughts about your money and your ex consume a great deal of your time and energy?

Fighting over money can wreck relationships and is one of the most significant sources of post-divorce conflict too. If you find yourself caught in this trap, you can benefit from understanding painful triggers and how to decide when to fight over the money you pay your ex.

I have four tips for managing money issues successfully with your ex post-divorce. If you can set aside all of the preconceptions you bring to the table about your ex-wife and your money, and how it impacts the children, you can do this.

That’s asking a lot, but your children’s happiness is worth it.  You may need to re-frame the way you have been thinking of the ex since the divorce, but you can make the shift with some hard work and determination.

The first thing you can do is to recognize that money you pay your ex through child support is intended to equalize, to a limited degree, the homes in which the child lives. This means their mother may benefit from the child support too. This concept probably wasn’t introduced to you during your divorce negotiations, but makes it clear that it’s okay for an ex-wife to have some benefit from the child support payments. The idea is that when children have less disparity between the two households where they reside, it is good for them.

Also, your views about money should be considered. Have you always been a “cup half full” person? Do you worry that there isn’t enough to go around? Or do you always expect to have enough money but sometimes come up short?

Whatever the case, take notice of what you bring to the table regarding money, perhaps based on your childhood, and acknowledge it. Although you may want to think otherwise, your ex isn’t responsible for all of your money issues. You play a role in how you manage money, and how you think about money, and it’s up to you to take responsibility for this. If you can do that, and use the four tools below, you are well on the way to creating a system for keeping money in its place in your life and with the ex!

1.      Recognize It’s Good for Your Children If Your Ex Isn’t Struggling Financially.

Simply put, child support is intended to equalize income, to some limited extent, between homes. Whatever your “beef” with your ex, don’t make this one of them. You cannot control how she spends the money so let that go. Assume she, like you, is doing the best she can to take care of your children too.  If you’ve spent a long time believing otherwise, this isn’t an easy task. But, it’s an important one.

When you begin to let go of the need to “punish” your ex for perceived misdeeds of the marriage, or your divorce, it will help you to allow the space for her to move forward successfully too. The expression, “A rising tide lifts all boats,” applies here as your children are surely well served by having two financially secure parents.

2.      Stop Talking About Money All the Time

Start by paying what you owe on time and not commenting negatively, for one month, on any money issues. If there is a real problem, you will deal with that, as needed. But, not right now.  You should create a budget for yourself, including the money paid to your ex, and make a plan to live within it. If you consider the money paid to your ex simply part of your monthly operating expenses, rather than an unnecessary burden, it may be simpler to stop thinking about it all of the time. Take the steps necessary to limit focusing on it. That will help you and your children.

Also, free yourself from the repetitive mantra of, “She’s a witch and is spending all of my money.” Instead, if it’s impossible to see her as a partner in co-parenting right now, acknowledge, if nothing else, she has the kids when you don’t. It’s good for them to be happy and secure when they are not with you. Your money helps them. Period.

3.      Don’t Talk to Your Kids About The Money You Pay Your Ex

There are no exceptions to this rule. Just don’t. They won’t think better of you if you tell them the money is all yours or that you are the only one who provides for them. They love their mom too, and they should, and this only makes them uncomfortable and insecure. You must choose to prioritize your children’s emotional health over your own need to feel as though you have somehow been victorious over your ex. There are no winners when children are put between their divorced parents. Their esteem is tied to what you say about their mother too.

 

4.      Keep Your Disagreements Civil and Simple

You are well served to have a system in place to address disagreements that arise outside of court. Perhaps you can develop a quarterly reconciliation of expenses outside of support, preferably by email, that works for you. Limit your comments to the expense itself and do not infer intent in your communication with your ex. It doesn’t solve the problem and is likely to only heighten the conflict.

Think carefully before escalating the dispute to the legal arena. It is much preferred, for the benefit of your children, to consider mediating expense conflicts outside of court. As a last resort, take your disagreement to court. Of course, if your income changes and modification of an order is necessary, you may need to use the legal process. Just remember to keep it matter-of-fact and don’t make it personal to your ex. She has her own money pressures and adding your negative energy will only hurt your children.

You are Your Kid’s Example

You can decide when to fight over money you pay your ex. Knowing when to let it go is likely the most important thing you can do for your own well-being and to take care of your kids. Recognize when you are triggered by money and your ex and always take a pause. Use the four tools above to limit your unnecessary interaction with your kids and their mother over money and make a plan to address when there is a dispute. You have a choice and can only control how you behave. Make sure you do to benefit you and your children, now and into their adulthood. Teaching them how to manage money, even when it’s difficult will help them now and long into their future. It’s really up to you!


(c) Can Stock Photo / AndreyPopov

How to Avoid Escalating Arguments With Your Ex Practical Tips From a Practicing Divorce Coach

How to Avoid Escalating Arguments With Your Ex Practical Tips From a Practicing Divorce Coach

Do you spend a great deal of your time in arguments with your ex? Is it nearly impossible to communicate anything at all that doesn’t lead to an explosion of tempers? Do you often feel you can’t say do anything right and try to avoid communication altogether, even when you sometimes need to talk about the kids? If so, you are not alone. Communication, in all aspects of life, is difficult and causes great strain in divorce. However, there is a way to avoid escalation and help your kids, too.

Start using four simple tools in your email and other communications with your ex. I endorse email as the “go to” for most of your communication. It is less immediate than text, which can be intrusive and easily inflammatory when quick responses are given. It also creates a written record you can rely on later as needed which in person or telephone communications are less likely to provide.

If you follow these simple ideas, the impact will be almost immediate. Remember, though, that your ex may expect tempers to flare now so may not be prepared for what’s next. The single biggest tip you can internalize now is to stay steady and give it time to work. Once you do, you will find the benefits of reducing your escalation pays off in more joy and less stress for you too. This, in turn, helps you feel better because the messages you send to yourself and others are more positive. It’s a win for everyone in your life!

Go Neutral, Not Nasty

Remember a time when arguments with your ex quickly escalated. Perhaps she wanted to get the kids sooner or drop them later or vary the custody schedule. Maybe she asked for money. All of these demands may act as triggers for you having nothing to do with her request, especially if you feel she has always told you what to do or chronically complains about money. However, it’s your job to address only what’s asked, that is, as the expression goes, “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.” If you are asked about something, answer the question. That is, answer only that question and do not bring up other matters in your response.

It may or may not be true that your ex has repeatedly asked for varied times or dates, but it doesn’t matter. Just answer her question. For example, if she asks you whether she can drop the kids at 8 pm instead of 6 pm Sunday night, you can answer, “Yes,” or “No.”

There’s no need to remind her she always asks for a later time and that you are tired of it. In fact, it’s better not to even add, at least as a first response, any reason. Just say, “That works,” or “That doesn’t work this time.” If she comes back to ask why, keep it short and sweet. “The kids need a bath and story by 8:30 so they can get enough rest before school tomorrow.” If she reminds you that you never cared about that when you were married, no response is required. If the kids aren’t dropped until 8 pm, just make a note and keep a record of it.

Over time, you can decide if a pattern has been created that makes any action on your part worthwhile. Remember, the goal is to support the kids and not punish you or her.

State What You Want, Not What You Don’t

When you have a request for your ex, ask it. Don’t tell her you are asking because she has previously failed to do whatever you are asking or criticizing her in another way.

For example, if you want to take your child to the zoo on a day you wouldn’t have her because there’s a special exhibit, email, “Can I take our daughter on Saturday because there is a special exhibit of penguins only on that day?” Don’t say, “I want to take our daughter to the zoo Saturday because I know you won’t do it and I don’t want her to miss the penguin exhibit.” The difference may seem obvious now but may not always be to you.

So, after you draft an email, save it. Turn to another task and come back a bit later. Re-read what you have written. Remove anything that suggests your ex has done something wrong. Remember, you are asking for something and want to get it.

Even if you are entitled to it, she can make it difficult so why communicate in a way that makes it harder for you? If you can’t see your own biases, ask one trusted person to review your email until you get the hang of it. Friends and family can be tricky as they are likely “in your corner.” Often, a divorce coach is the perfect neutral to help you with your goal and hold you gently accountable as needed. But, over time, you can certainly do this on your own!

Be Flexible

Make what you are asking as flexible as possible. Allow your ex to feel empowered by what you are asking to allow them some control too. If you want to take your daughter to the zoo on a day you don’t have custody, and there is more than one date or time that can happen for you, ask your ex what she prefers. “I’d love to take our daughter to the zoo and see the exhibit is this Saturday and Sunday. Does one of those days work for you?” This will be much more likely to receive a positive response than, “I want to take our daughter to the zoo and it has to be Saturday because I have other plans Sunday so don’t suggest it.”

This may seem obvious, but you will be surprised by how much you even unintentionally convey if your communication in the past has not been friendly or cooperative. Build in your own flexibility so you can prepare for a response that gets you what you want, going to the zoo, even if it turns out it has to be on Sunday, for example.

Agree to Disagree

You are likely familiar with the Rolling Stones lyrics, “You can’t always get what you want.” Yet, in separation and divorce, we are often loathe letting go any of our ideas when our ex takes another position. We become entrenched in ways we wouldn’t with friends, most family, and even co-workers.

The remedy to avoid escalating arguments with your ex is to recognize that so much of this disagreement is simply noise.

It doesn’t really matter much what she thinks about your ideas anymore.

You need to have some agreement about the kids, but you mostly have authority in your home and she in hers. Of course, it’s better for the kids if you can be consistent across homes on the big issues, but you can let the rest go.

For example, if your ex puts the kids to bed at 7:30 pm and you think it’s too early, that 8:30 pm is just fine; it’s not necessary to tell her that unless you notice the kids aren’t well rested. And, even if they aren’t, there are many other reasons that may occur having nothing to do with your difference in bedtimes. In other words, let it go.

If you can remind yourself of this, in divorce, almost every day, you will likely serve yourself and your kids much better. Naturally, when something happens that has a big impact on your kid’s life, you will state it, with respect and in a neutral way. For example, “I noticed our daughter wakes up at 5:00 am, and I wonder if her bedtime impacts that. I’m trying 8:30 pm now and find she sleeps until 6:30 am. Do you think that might work for you too?” Of course, if your daughter isn’t waking up for you too early, you don’t need to say anything at all and will only tell your ex this suggestion if asked.

Controlling Arguments With Your Ex

After all, we may not always get what we want but it is likely, sometimes, we will get what we need. Reminding yourself, repeatedly, what you can control and what you can’t, and communicating only what you control will help avoid escalating arguments with your ex. And, really, that’s what all of us really need.


(c) Can Stock Photo / 4774344sean

Divorce Advice for Dads on Overcoming Anger at Your Ex 3 Key Reasons You Can't Abandon Your Kids

Divorce Advice for Dads on Overcoming Anger at Your Ex 3 Key Reasons You Can't Abandon Your Kids

Are you consumed by anger at your ex, and outraged by her demands and behavior? Are you pretty sure you are right, and she’s wrong about, well, almost everything? Does she try to control what you do with the kids on your time and show little flexibility when it comes to your time? Well, you aren’t alone.

In fact, many dads feel there is an imbalance of authority and control over the kids post-divorce. If you have not traditionally been the primary caregiver to your kids, you may find yourself with new responsibilities along with all the old demands. You may not know how to do it all at once. And, if you haven’t made most decisions historically about the kids, your former wife may think she gets to continue to do it even when it should be up to you.

In fact, the constant stream of communication, advice giving and straight up ranting can seem endless. It may seem overwhelming, and you want to do anything to make it stop. You are not alone as many other dads have found themselves in your position, filled with anger at your ex and ready to walk away from the whole thing.

You Can Calm the Anger At Your Ex

The truth is that, for both parents, divorce is a time of shifting of power and control. And although you may not sympathize with your ex, you certainly can likely acknowledge there is a real change for her too. So, if you can calm the overwhelm and anger, it’s likely you might decide you need to cope with whatever is thrown at you and make it work for you and your kids.

No matter the difficulty in this transition, however, there are three key reasons you cannot decide to abandon your kids because of it.

Why You Can’t Abandon Your Kids

  1. It hurts your kids. You may ultimately believe you are expendable because, according to your ex, you do everything wrong anyway. You aren’t. In fact, it helps kids to see that there is more than one way to manage a situation, even when their parents are married. In divorce, kids build resilience and good coping skills when they see their parents can support them well, if differently.

You can talk honestly with your kids about your struggles to manage it all but don’t try to make them take care of you, emotionally or physically. You can build a teamwork mentality; however, that will make your kids better able to take good care as they learn and grow. Create a household schedule with shared responsibilities. Usually, even the youngest of kids can participate in helping get ready for dinner, clean up, and other housework. You may even create financial or other incentives for pitching in on extra chores. Motivate your kids to appreciate hard work, and it will pay off for the rest of their lives.

When you need to do it, block out the noise. Set aside one time each day to review email from your ex. Don’t respond to toxic messages, at all, and communicate simply and neutrally to the others. This makes certain you are shielded, on a limited basis at least, from that which you cannot control, and make sure you keep the focus on what does: the kids.

  1. It hurts you. You may believe you can just re-connect with your kids when they turn 18. Guess what? That’s too late. Sure, you may have heard stories about dads that do that, but if you probe a little deeper, you most often find the relationship is never restored to the level they once had with their children. In fact, there are too many sad tales of children who imagine they were abandoned by their fathers because they did something wrong. 

It doesn’t help to tell the kids it’s because of their mother, by the way. Remember, she’s the other parent to them, and they deserve to love you both very much. Don’t stand in their way even if you genuinely believe she stands in yours.

In a practical sense, you need to develop coping skills and an outlet for the difficulty. If you don’t get physical exercise and practice mindfulness too, start. If you already do, push harder. Get out of the mental space of focusing exclusively on the difficulty you face and learn to manage your thoughts better. When thoughts turn negative, use a physical prompt, ear pull, wrist snap with a rubber band, to shift away from that pattern. It works! Physical activity and meditation, even briefly each day, is a great way to do this and also get you in better shape for all you need to manage in your new life too.

If you find yourself too angry or sad to make a change, get professional help. Unless it’s been a pattern, it’s likely situation, and a professional coach or therapist can help you identify ways to cope too. You will be better for it in the long run.

  1. It Will Always Be With You. You may have been able to outrun pain in other areas of your life by ignoring it. It’s much less easy to do with kids. You will not forget them, and you will likely suffer legal and financial consequences for abandoning them too.

Staying engaged with your kids is a down payment on your emotional and physical health for the future. The link between mental and emotional health is now clear. If you disconnect from your kids, it’s a huge loss for your health too. It may seem simpler, in the moment, to walk away and compartmentalize the anguish by blaming your ex, but you must recognize that isn’t fair to either of you.

Don’t Let Her See You Sweat

Consider the mantra, “This too shall pass.” As hard as it may seem to communicate with someone who may no longer your ally, but is still the other parent of your children, it is possible. Simple and neutral rules the day. Don’t let her see you sweat and try to make clear that you can handle whatever arises with the kids. Whatever ideas you have about her desire to control or manipulate, it’s likely she loves the kids as much as you. Figure out how to work it out for them.  And remember that it takes a while for new habits to form. Don’t expect change immediately. Calm and consistent gets the most results in the long run. Don’t allow yourself to be derailed by your own emotions or your ex’s expression of hers. How you feel can be shared with your therapist or coach but how you behave with your ex must be consistent and unflappable. That, uniformly and universally, helps the kids.

You can overcome your anger at your ex to parent your children. The process begins by prioritizing the needs of the kids. Next, you will need to figure out how to support yourself while learning effective communication with her. If you can’t do it alone, consult a professional to help. In extreme circumstances, you may even need legal help to protect yourself and your children.

Continue Parenting Your Kids

However, it’s often the case that both you and the mother of your children need to learn new skills for communication and co-parenting to go neutral with each other. If you keep in mind that your children are one-half of her too, it may help you understand their need to love both of you and why it’s important to allow that. Whatever you say and do to her, you do to them too. By remembering that and using the tools outlined here to help keep you focused, you can overcome your anger at your ex and continue parenting your kids. It’s likely one of the best decisions you will ever make.

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