Broken relationships happen, but they do not have to lead to raising broken children. You’ve seen the headlines with celebrities like Madonna battling exes to maintain custody of their children, or Damon Dash in protracted fights over child support. The public tends to forget that celebrities are people too, and often go through the same issues, only in the spotlight.
Take Monyetta Shaw for instance. Shaw and Ne-Yo went through an ugly breakup. According to Shaw, she elected to undergo a tubal-ligation at the request of Ne-Yo, who was supposed to get a vasectomy. The vasectomy never happened, and the R&B crooner recently married and had a child with a woman named Crystal Renay.
Undoubtedly, this caused Shaw a tremendous amount of turmoil and emotional pain. However, she and Ne-Yo have a son and daughter together, who still need both Shaw and their father as they traverse life. Shaw just released a book about co-parenting with the R&B star.
Lawsuits, Twitter tirades, and gag orders plagued the co-parenting relationship of NBA player Dwight Howard and the mother of his first son, professional dancer and former reality TV star, Royce Reed. However, a family intervention recently brought the two together for the benefit of their son.
Drama does not only exist in tabloid headlines, on gossip blogs, or in the lives of people who are famous for being famous. Drama happens in the homes of your neighbors, friends, and family members. If you were to have one day to visit a court room in any county in any state, you will see the lives of the parents of children poured out on witness stands every hour on the hour.
Often lawyers and judges unintentionally facilitate the meltdown and breakdown of families. Where the goal of most sane and compassionate legal players is to look out for the best interest of children, the method to get there can drive up the drama factor between the parents who are left behind to parent those children after the final gavel.
The difficulty of exes having to raise children together goes beyond court cases and social media wars. Immediately after breakups, raising children as partners can be as volatile as walking through a minefield blindfolded. It gets ugly. So what can you do to get back to parenting after you’ve acted a complete and utter fool toward each other?
Co-parenting after drama
1. Forgive and let live
The worst thing you can do is give your child a miserable parent. So you really need to let go of some things his or her other parent did or did not do to make your life a hot mess. Forgive and release the old in order to build the new. You cannot go back and change things. You can only move toward making things better.
That also means you cannot control what that person does with his or her current life. If what your co-parent has going on has no negative impact on your child(ren), then it is none of your business. Likewise, what you do or who you carry on with, post your relationship, is only your business to the point that the person becomes part of your child’s life. You cannot effectively raise your children if you’re so busy trying to raise grown people. Your ex is your ex for a reason…and sometimes that reason is for you to mind your own business, unless it impacts the children.
2. Divide and conquer
Divide your old relationship from the new relationship you have with your ex and conquer the hurt feelings and bitter taste that relationship left. This is a brand new relationship and you have to treat it as such. You have to nurture it, create a strategic plan for it, and treat it with the appropriate level of importance. Bringing up past put downs and let downs will prevent you from moving forward.
You also have to divide who that person was as a romantic partner from who he or she is or will be as a parent. They are not always one and the same. A piss poor romantic partner can be parent of the year to his or her child. You have to conquer your perception of who he or she was to you, and get a clear perspective of who he or she is to your child.
3. Be better than you want to be
Sometimes you’re just going to have to swallow your pride, ego, super ego…id…and every thing else that comes with you wanting to be right or in charge. Being right does not mean you are being better. Sometimes being better means you have to kill “right arguments” and trade them in for right relationships.
So what dad brought the kids back thirty minutes past their bed time? They could have been enraptured by quality time. Be a little flexible. Do not hold this one late time against dad because you will be effectually holding it against your children. Sometimes a parent’s reaction to not keeping to a specific schedule is denying visits or access going forward or becoming more controlling over the schedule. Remember who really loses out when that access is denied.
As a father, or non-custodial parent, be mindful of how your actions may stress out the custodial parent and choose a better way. If you are not the primary parent on duty, you may not realize the importance of schedules and being on time, but when the parent with the majority duty of day-to-day activity has to handle business with the children you should be a partner not a hindrance.
4. Focus on the common goal
You both love your child(ren) in the only way you know how. But that is not the only way the child can be loved. Each parent adds a special function to the rearing of children and that should be supported and appreciated. The common goal is to raise healthy, happy, well-adjusted children, whom feel loved by both parents. Both mom and dad bring tools to the table that the other lacks. Anything that prohibits the use of those tools creates a deficit for the children.
The child(ren) should always be the priority. That means you cannot focus on the past dealings of your relationship. So don’t go sliding in and out of each others DMs or bedrooms. Causing the other parent to feel emotionally distraught for your own selfish benefit is causing harm to your child. When you focus on using the other parent or disrupting her sanity with playing games or being inconsistent, you make the common goal more difficult to achieve.
5. Remember team work makes the dream work
One divorcee spoke of how she and her ex-husband treat their new relationship like a business.
You have to train yourself to think about the children first. After going through divorce or breakup that can be very hard because you still need to heal emotionally. But you should, absent safety concerns, learn to spend time as a family again.
I also had to learn to think of my co-parent relationship as a business. We talk about the business and the politics of the new relationship. We have worked our way back to a great relationship.
Business partners have to be supportive, accountable, and dependable. Each partner has to put for the effort necessary for a successful business. Just remember to not keep score and become a constant reminder of how the other parent has fallen short. Instead, find ways to assist each other so that any short-comings are covered by your teammate. At times, that can mean going out of your way to lighten the load of the other parent if that means your children will benefit.
6. Communicate without being petty
Truthfully, you may have been through so much with your ex, that you forgot his or her name and replaced it with an expletive. If you are going to provide your children with the best parenting possible, you need to learn how to talk to each other again. That sometimes means letting small things roll off your back and choosing negotiations over battles.
This may necessitate some outside help. That means finding someone professionally trained to deal with adults in your situation. Sometimes, otherwise normal conversation can be a trigger for past disruptive behavior. A therapist can help you identify those triggers and create new ways to address issues that lend toward resolution instead of meltdowns.
These are difficult undertakings when your co-parent has raised your ire to astronomical levels. You can still co-parent with someone you hate, until the hate subsides. of course. Time can be a remedy for the hatred you feel. Over time the distance between your co-parent’s failures and your child’s needs grows larger and your child’s needs will begin to outweigh your anger. It is better to realize that sooner than later.
Remember, you are an active participant in creating the parenting that your child will receive. You have to own more of your own actions than you have fingers to point blame at your co-parent’s actions. If all you can do is find fault in your co-parent, your child will consume that energy from you.
Never forget that your co-parent is an intricate part of what makes your child uniquely thrive. Part of your child’s being lies within the being of your co-parent. They are emotionally, physically and spiritually bound…so treat your co-parent in a manner that honors his or her importance in your child’s life.