After 3 years of co-parenting, I look back in amazement at how far my ex-husband and I have come. At the time of our divorce, our daughter was 2 years old, and we were first time parents. To be honest, it felt like the worst time of my life. We could barely communicate without arguing. Every time we spoke, I felt a whirlwind of emotions; anger, sadness, and confusion.
One thing I was certain of — we needed to find a better way to co-parent, for the sake of my sanity and most importantly — for my daughter. After some time, my ex and I realized the way we had been acting was not in the best interest of our daughter. Therefore we agreed to handle things differently to help us move forward and be fully present with the needs of our daughter.
These are the steps that helped us effectively co-parent:
- Avoid conflict in front of the children. The first thing we agreed on was to keep our personal issues with each other away from our daughter. This meant we would not argue in front of her. And we would not criticize each other in her presence. Young children may not have the full capacity to understand the situation, but they do get stressed and feel anxiety. We did not want our personal issues to affect our daughter. And children should never feel like they must choose one parent or the other.
- Be kind. Avoiding is conflict is one thing, but being cold-hearted is so obvious. Children can sense and feel that … and it makes everyone uneasy and uncomfortable. Try and be genuinely cordial and kind … nice even! It won’t hurt you and it will help the whole dynamic and energy between all of you. This is really important. This tense energy can be absorbed into your child’s karma … so clear up the energy and be nice!
- Communication is Key. In the beginning it may be difficult to communicate face to face. But if you decide to not communicate at all, you may be choosing to miss important milestones in your child’s life. Instead, find an alternative form of communicating where both of you feel comfortable. In the beginning, my ex and I solely communicated via email. But with time we were able to heal and mature. Now we have no issues communicating face to face, at all.
- Focus on the Present. As humans we have a natural tendency of focusing on the past. But this a definite no go in co-parenting. If you begin placing your attention on old wounds, and blaming each other for past events, you will never be able to move forward. Therefore, the past will keep repeating itself. The past is already gone and there is nothing we can do to change it. The power of the present moment is all that exists and it is only in the NOW where changes can take place. In other words, Let It Go!
- Be parents FIRST. When we take on the mentality of just being an “Ex-husband/Wife” it makes us focus solely on our personal struggles and not on our children’s. As adults we understand our reasons for separating but children usually do not. Choose to be a parent first by setting aside your differences and focusing on the needs of the children, making them them first priority.
- Forgiveness is Key. As I heard someone say a while back, “forgive is not for the other person, it is for you to be able to move on.” Divorce brings up so many wounds and when we hold on to those wounds, it causes us to stay in the same place emotionally and karmically. In order for me to have moved on to this stage of co-parenting, I had to forgive. I had to let go of the past. In forgiving I was able to co-parent from a better place, and focus on what truly matters the most — our daughter.
Diana Marrero is a spunky freelance writer; her publications are dedicated to promoting conscious parenting, co-parenting, divorce, self-acceptance, and awakenings. When she became a mother, she realized parenting is a life long journey of love, learning and awakenings. Diana is the founder of Namaste Parenting, a mindfulness educator, co-parenting researcher, and a former director of case management for a non-profit facility for underprivileged youth.