When parents split up, kids shouldn’t suffer. If your relationship with your little ones is important, you must make peace with your ex and learn to co-parent in order to GET YOURS!

This month, a reader tries to keep the peace with her ex.

Q: My husband and I recently divorced, and it wasn't pretty. We still disagree about most things. How can we put aside our issues with each other for the good of our young son and daughter? 

Like jumbo shrimp, the term “amicable divorce” seems like an oxymoron to me. Though some are less bitter than others, no divorce is pretty. Yet when children are involved, it’s imperative that parents act like grown folks toward each other. No matter what went down in the past, going forward, your every communication with former spouse must be respectful and courteous so your kids will learn how to maintain positive relationships.

Yes, it will be challenging; it was for my ex and me. It took time, patience and empathy, but now we are successfully co-parenting our son. Fortunately, you recognize the importance of children having two parents—that’s your priority, but for some, it’s the biggest hurdle. Get over that piece, and you’re halfway there!

To get the rest of the way, let me share some strategies that worked for me in the early stages of co-parenting. For one, keep in mind the positive aspects of your divorce. Know that your children are far better off seeing their parents happy apart than unhappy together.

For our son’s sake, I made every effort to be considerate of his father’s point of view. At first, taking the higher ground wasn’t easy: I was still hurt. But I realized that my ex is a human being, too. He’s entitled to his perspective and his opinion. I also reminded myself that half our child’s DNA comes from him. That amazing little boy was created by both of us.  

If you find it difficult to be nice to your ex, try keeping your kids in view when you speak to him on the phone or in person. Surely you’d never want to set a poor example by being petty or unkind when your children are around. If they’re at school or otherwise away when you two communicate, try looking at a photo of them: That will remind you of your priorities and keep you on track.

In the beginning, you may have to fake it till you make it. Insincerity is not ideal; kids pick up on that. It’s better to kill someone with kindness than stoop to disrespectful behavior. Don’t sweat the small stuff that used to drive you crazy. That’s so not your problem anymore! Eventually, as the pain of your divorce subsides, it will get easier to be genuinely civil. Plus, if you are pleasant to someone, there’s a good chance that person will follow suit.

I am thankful to be able to say that my ex-husband and I are friends. He is a terrific father, and I’m so grateful for the consistent effort he puts into co-parenting. Because we both work hard at it, we now occasionally do activities together with our son so he can experience how positive our relationship is. For instance, when he graduated from first grade, we took him out to lunch to celebrate—and it was great for him to see both of us beaming with pride and getting along because of the joy he brings us.

Got a question you’d like  me to answer? Email me at: [email protected]

How to get yours!

Reach out to your ex and express your sincere desire to improve your relationship for the sake of the children.

When it’s your former spouse’s turn with the children, exhibit some kindness toward the ex in front of the kids. But steer clear of the physical; even a friendly embrace could confuse the kids.

Remember that your ex will be part of your family for life. This person will always be your partner in co-parenting and deserves respect for that.