'Never say negative things about your ex' and more tips for co-parenting after divorce

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"You both love your kids".(fizkes/Getty Images)
"You both love your kids".(fizkes/Getty Images)
Amid unemployment, forced isolations, school-related stressors and the needs of daily life, many marriages have not survived the pandemic. 

In the UK, British law firm Stewarts reported a 122% increase in divorce queries from couples in 2020.  

In 2021, Canadian lawyer Russell Alexander shared that his client base had grown by 30% since the pandemic. 

While South African data on the state of divorce during the pandemic is not yet available, local family lawyers have indicated that divorce has been on the rise since the start of the first lockdown

Also read: #NoOneWins | Everything you need to know about Parental Alienation 

'If you don't agree on anything'

For many couples facing divorce, the biggest fear might be approaching the situation in the healthiest way possible for their children. 

While making the jump from married parents to separated and co-parenting will not be easy, it's possible even when a marriage ends badly, says clinical psychologist Ann Gold

"Even if you don't agree on anything else, one thing is almost certain: You both love your kids. So, for their sake, can you put your love for your kids and their wellbeing ahead of your negative feelings about your ex?"

Here's a look at what Gold and a few other experts say are essential to co-parenting post-divorce. 

Agree on a schedule

According to Gold, creating a schedule that is doable for both parties is key.

To work, a schedule must be mindful of both your work schedules and your children's school schedules. The schedule you agree on must be realistic and preferably be put in writing. 

"Put it in writing, so there is no misunderstanding about what you have agreed to, "Gold advises. 

Agree on rules and values

According to Dr Anna Cohen, a clinical child psychologist, consistency when talking about rules and consequences are as important as consistent schedules. 

"Put aside your differences and sit down and outline ground rules and consequences for your kids that you both agree to follow... stay constant in your consequences, meaning your kids will have the same expectations despite moving between homes," Cohen advises. 

Adopt a co-parenting communication style 

According to Helpguide.org, effective communication between co-parents will mean adopting a specific way of communicating. This includes: 

  • Taking on a business-like tone when speaking with a co-parent as if speaking or writing to a colleague. 
  • Making requests and not statements ('Would you be willing to…?" or 'Can we…?' etc.) 
  • All conversation should be focused on the children - avoid including comments about your needs or wants. 

Direct communication is best 

Cohen recommends that parents keep communication open and avoid passing messages on through the children. Using children for communicating could lead to anxiety "especially if they forget to tell the other something or their message is met with frustration or anger". 

Texting is the best option as this will go a long way in avoiding arguments. 

Also see: How do you forgive someone who has caused you deep pain? We talk to 2 experts

Keep opinions and frustrations about an ex to yourself

Since personal opinions about a co-parent are bound to be negative from time to time, especially post-divorce, Helpguide.org suggests steering clear of all negative views in front of your children. 

"Never say negative things about your ex to your children, or make them feel like they have to choose. Your child has a right to a relationship with their other parent that is free of your influence". 

What has your experience with co-parenting been like? 

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