How do you navigate a relationship with an ex whom you no longer like? Or maybe you are still in love, but the pain is too hard to deal with at this time. I think it’s important to remember that these separations are hard on everyone, no matter how it came about or who was responsible. But, as hard as it is for the adults, it’s even harder on the children. The good news is ... there are some things we can do to make it a little easier on them.
The first rule of thumb is, “Never talk badly about your former partner!” It won’t always be easy. We all start out thinking that we will have no trouble with it, then something happens to spark our emotions. All of a sudden, the words come out. It takes a huge concerted effort sometimes to bite your tongue. But it’s even harder to remember not to talk about your ex on the phone with a friend while your children are in listening distance. We don’t always know that the kids are nearby. They are often out of sight but still within earshot, hearing things that they shouldn’t, so it takes even more awareness.
Another important thing is, after the hardest part of the break-up is over, try to get along. My own children have told me how important it was to them that their dad and I remained friends. We were all still a part of the family. It was hard in the beginning, we did struggle to get along sometimes, but we didn’t have to see each other when we didn’t want to. Eventually, we became much better friends than when we were married, and I helped him pass at the end of his life.
Make sure your children get enough time with each parent. When you are not the parent with physical custody, it’s easy to fall into that “sugar daddy” role. These are the parents who spend lots of money, give gifts, go on spectacular trips and more but don’t do the everyday disciplinary things. These parents don’t have to nag about homework and set limits. If you are in this role, try to be sensitive to your ex-partner's struggles. Equal time is the best plan, if it can be arranged. Your children love you both and need the same amount of time with each of you. The exception to this is if there is abuse of some kind. You must protect your children from abuse, but differences in parenting styles are okay. That's one of the advantages to having two parents.
Lastly, back up the other parent. If your children think they can divide and conquer, they will go all out to do that. You won't know which way the wind blows. Always assume that the pther parent is doing the right thing and check with them. Don't automatically side with your child before investigating what really happened. We all know how dramatic children can be, blowing things way out of proportion. As much trouble as your child is making with you, you can bet they are doing the same at their other home. Don't allow that disruption to take hold. Try to remember that you chose to be with that other adult because you saw the good in them. Try to keep seeing that good, and you'll be doing your whole family a huge favor.