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How to Co-Parent a Child with an Uncooperative Ex-Spouse

Updated on November 6, 2012
Don't make your child the rope in a parental tug of war.
Don't make your child the rope in a parental tug of war. | Source

Following divorce, learning to co-parent is not an easy feat. When you have an uncooperative ex-spouse it can seem impossible. Despite the difficulties, however, learning to co-parent is an essential part of raising your children to happy, healthy adults. Co-parenting amicably will ensure your child maintains a close relationship with both parents, providing them with a sense of stability and security that they may have loss during the divorce.

Remember, the only person you can control is yourself. Change how you respond to your uncooperative ex-spouse to keep from escalating or contributing to bad behavior in front or your child.
Remember, the only person you can control is yourself. Change how you respond to your uncooperative ex-spouse to keep from escalating or contributing to bad behavior in front or your child. | Source

Why Co-parenting Is Sometimes So Difficult

A divorce, particularly if it’s a hostile one, can be exhausting and, at times, infuriating. Getting past such strong emotions is not an easy thing to do. You or your ex-spouse may have pent up resentments, unresolved conflicts, or you may simply be uncertain about what your role is now. You are no longer someone’s wife or husband. But, after so many years of defining yourself in that way (and parenting in that way) it can be difficult to now redefine your role. It is important to remember that divorcing your spouse does not mean you have also divorced your kids. You are still a parent, and as such you are still responsible for the lives and welfare of your children.

When dealing with an uncooperative ex-spouse there is one fact that you just have to learn to accept. That fact is that you cannot control your ex-spouse no matter how you much you may want to. Trying to do so will only make things worse. The truth of the matter is the two of you may never completely get over the bitterness you feel towards each other. What you can do, however, is remind yourself that these issues are yours, not your child’s. Both you and your ex should resolve to keep these issues away from the children. Do your part to adhere to this agreement and continue to follow this rule even if your ex-spouse fails to do so. Be aware of your own behavior and act to protect your children from adult dramas. Again, you cannot control the behavior of your ex-spouse. You can, however, control how you respond.

Focusing on your children is the key to co-parenting. It may help if you think of the relationship with your ex-spouse as a completely new one. This can be a good way to learn to separate your feelings from your behavior. Remember, co-parenting is about your children’s stability, happiness, and overall well-being. Being able to co-parent successfully is a great way to show you children that they are more important than whatever disagreements you may still have with your former spouse.

Tips for Peaceful Parenting

Get your feelings out somewhere else. Do not vent to your child or in front of your child
Keep conversations kid-focused
Never use your kids as messengers. This puts your child in the middle of your conflict
Keep your issues to yourself
Set a business-like tone. Your business is raising your kids. Speak to your ex-spouse as though you were collegue with this mutual goal in mind
Make requests instead of demands. Try terminology such as "Can we try...?" or "Would you be willing to...?"
Show restraint. Train youself not to overreact to your ext even when they're pushing your buttons
Never sabotage your child's relationship with the other parent
Never use your chid as a pawn to get back at your ex or to gain information about your ex-spouse
Never transfer feelings for your ex onto your child
Don't make your child choose between his parents. They have a right to love your both.
Don't make your child choose between his parents. They have a right to love your both. | Source

Cooperative Parenting Vs. Parallel Parenting

Following a breakup, the goal of both parents should be to change the dynamic of their relationship to one that is based entirely on the child. This new relationship should have relatively low levels of conflict. This scenario is known as cooperative parenting and is the ideal situation for children of divorced or separated parents.

Cooperative parenting means that you and your ex-spouse have developed the ability to communicate effectively regarding your child without substantial conflict. This is the healthiest way for both parents to see to their child’s needs. Parents who utilize this approach will probably agree on most parenting values. They are also more likely to have relatively consistent parenting styles.

The second type of co-parenting style is known as parallel parenting. This co-parenting style is for those parents who are unable to parent cooperatively. Conflicts within these families tend to be higher, however, by using a parallel parenting approach they can be avoided. In parallel parenting each parent does their best job of parenting when the child is with them. These parents disengage from each other in an effort to keep conflicts down. They only communicate about major things involving the child. This cuts down on bickering and prevents debates regarding the other parent's parenting style.

Both parents have a right and responsibility to love their child even if they fall out of love with each other.
Both parents have a right and responsibility to love their child even if they fall out of love with each other. | Source

The effects of divorce on children can be devastating. They have lost much of what was once normal for them. Learning to co-parent is essential to providing your child with a new normal that is healthy and happy. Do your part to provide your child with this environment even if your ex-spouse is uncooperative.


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    • stephanie mclain profile image

      Stephanie 4 years ago from Texas

      This is a great read! I am married to a man with an uncooperative ex and at times it is very frustrating to handle her. We've made it our goal to "take the high road" and not become overly consumed by her negativity. We try to always make sure we are thinking about the kids first. That makes it easier to deal with her. Thanks for sharing this very important info with others.

    • LQWILLIams profile image

      LQWILLIams 5 years ago

      Thank you for reading and sharing your real life experiences.

    • abbykorinnelee profile image

      Abigayle Malchow 5 years ago from Ripon Wisconsin

      Voted up. I was lucky when I divorced my first husband after nine years and have three kids with. We have an amazing relationship and co-parenting. His wife has blended well too. I didn't dream my failed second marriage would be a nightmare of an ex, who is a deadbeat. He is impossible to deal with. I hope this hub helps others try to co-parent. It is worth it and all that hard work to get there. Our kids are so much better off and we have had joint trips to Knotts Berry Farm, I have babysat and spent the night in their home, gone to church with them and we even all took one big famly photo. It is an amazing expereince if you can make it work.

    • LQWILLIams profile image

      LQWILLIams 5 years ago

      Thank you

    • KawikaChann profile image

      KawikaChann 5 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place

      Nicely done LQ, divorce is a heartwrenching experience for everyone involved. Too many times, the children take the brunt of the hit. Great info for families going through this hardship. Voted you up and useful. Peace. Kawi.

    • LQWILLIams profile image

      LQWILLIams 5 years ago

      Thank you, Robin. I appreciate the feedback.

    • LQWILLIams profile image

      LQWILLIams 5 years ago

      The definition of co-parenting is simply that two parents are divorced, separated or not otherwise together. Two active parents who engage with their child are still in a co-parenting situation even if there is no engagement with each other. Uncooperative can actually mean a lot of things. For example, the uncooperative parent just may instigate arguments in front of the child at drop off or they may be intentionally attempting to alienate the child from the other parent. Some even use the court system to create drama and tension or the blatantly ignore court orders all together. Regardless, they are still in a co-parenting situation. Thank you for your feedback.

    • FL2BoysMom profile image

      FL2BoysMom 5 years ago

      If the other parent isn't actively engaging in any 'cooperative' parenting, then you're not co-parenting. You're just, parenting.

    • Robin profile image

      Robin Edmondson 5 years ago from San Francisco

      This is fantastic advice. I really appreciate how you make clear that you cannot control an uncooperative ex spouse, but you can control how you react. Great tips!

    • LQWILLIams profile image

      LQWILLIams 5 years ago

      The guidelines are for what you can do if the other parent is uncooperative. Most people spend their time trying to make the other person behave which never works. They forget to maintain themselves and it only escalates, thus they both appear "uncooperative." Thanks for reading.

    • FL2BoysMom profile image

      FL2BoysMom 5 years ago

      LOL... the very definition of the 'uncooperative' parent is that they are NOT going to 'cooperate' with any of the 'guidelines' you've just set forth here.


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