How to let go of hate and be a better co-parent

better co-parent

Separation is distressing at the best of times, but the added complexity of having children together can compound the challenges. This is not to say that separation without children isn’t equally emotional or stressful, but having children adds another dimension.

Co-operative co-parenting is the goal after most breakups, and that dynamic is the one that I will explore here.

Note: This article does not attempt to explore relationship separation due to family and domestic violence or other traumatic circumstances. In these cases, please seek advice from appropriately skilled professionals.

Accept (and embrace) your feelings around co-parenting

Let’s get things straight: to co-parent effectively you don’t need to push down or ignore your feelings of anger, resentment and/or fear. These are very normal and appropriate feelings in situations like separation and when negotiating a new norm for parenting.

When we feel like we can’t control things – such as court or custody arrangements or differences in parenting techniques, we can feel anxious, worried, frustrated and angry!

So, remember any feelings you have are normal. Embrace them by exploring them and reflecting on your feelings. It doesn’t seem like it could have much impact, but simply acknowledging your emotions goes a long way to reducing them.

Exploring our emotions helps us understand them, and when we know them, we feel more confident in managing them and subsequently feel less scared or overwhelmed.

Try to co-parent without hate

But co-parenting without hate is not just about acknowledging your emotions. It’s also about how you direct and respond to those feelings.

Holding on to anger is bad for us emotionally and physically. It stops us from being able to process or move into a different space (not necessarily forgiveness, but a place of acceptance), it can also impact current situations that are neutral, but when we bring anger into it, it can taint our perceptions of what’s happening in the here and now. Anger also increases blood pressure, which can impact heart health.

So, let’s explore some ways to re-direct anger.

Use a communication or co-parenting app

Apps are not just great to help you become a better co-parent by lessening the need to physically communicate. They can also serve as legal documents required by the family courts. You can have evidence of communication, expenditures, calendar, and custody schedules, among others.

Here are two co-parenting apps recommended by Australian Family Lawyers.

  • Our Family Wizard: The most comprehensive co-parenting app available. Allow involvement from third parties such as mediator, and stands-up in family court
  • Cozi: An user-friendly app with calendar, shared lists and notes, great to use while you are deciding whether to pay for a co-parenting app

Find more listed here: 12 Best co-parenting apps and software.

Keep your child (or children) in focus

It’s easy to focus on “winning” or one-upping your partner to punish them for your separation or their behaviours during your relationship, but no one wins in a family breakup.

Least of all our kids.

They are always watching and picking up on any conflict, so try and communicate openly and honestly where possible, reassure them that the separation is not their fault and use your child as the focus for moving towards an amicable co-parenting relationship.

Regardless of your relationship breaking down with your ex, that person will still always be their mother or father and it’s essential to allow them to have and maintain that relationship.

Accept you may be parallel parenting, not co-parenting

Parallel parenting is a parenting method usually adopted by high-conflict parents. Here, communication is professional and limited to the children only. Each parent has the autonomy to make routine, day-to-day decisions without the intervention and input from the other parent.

If you and your ex are in this situation, don’t fret. It’s natural for at least one of you to want to avoid communication as much as possible, especially when you’ve just divorced.

I understand not knowing exactly what the other parent is doing with your kids can make you anxious, especially in the beginning. But parallel parenting is about trusting that your ex will do things well, even if it’s not the same way as you.

To be honest, having minimal communication may be the best to avoid even more conflict between the two of you. If less communication means less trauma for your kids, then parallel parenting may be what makes you a better co-parent.

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of the present moment, a skill that helps us identify and acknowledge our feelings without judgment of them being “good” or “bad”. It can help you bring your focus back to the present and not on past hurts, but it also allows you to examine what comes up for you, witnessing the emotions but not allowing them to influence you at this moment.

Mindfulness activities are everywhere, so find an app or a YouTube channel to talk you through a mindfulness activity. It might focus on your breathing or body or be a visualisation. Just find one that works best for you.

Learn and use conflict resolution strategies

Conflicts are typical in every human interaction. Especially if you’ve had a less-than-amicable separation, it’s natural and expected that you’ll encounter problems with your ex sooner or later.

Here are three conflict resolution strategies to help the two of you become better co-parents:

  • Avoidance. While it seems counterintuitive to ignore a problem, there are instances when avoidance is the best option, at least temporarily. Sometimes, you will need to wait it out until the other party calms down. In the meantime, you act as if there’s no problem to keep the peace. However, remember that ignoring the existence of conflict must be a temporary solution. Once the tension subsides, facing the problem head-on is still best.
  • Compromise. In this lose-lose strategy, you and your ex must forfeit some of your needs to arrive at an acceptable resolution. This can be an excellent temporary strategy while you come up with a better and more harmonious permanent solution.
  • Collaboration.The best strategy to resolve your conflicts is always working together to find a mutually beneficial solution. This way, neither of you feels she or he is getting the worse end of the bargain. Collaborating is the key for you to become a better co-parent for the sake of your kids.

Recognise the source of your anger

Anger is an important emotion that tells us many essential things about our safety and boundaries. Generally, we feel angry when something or someone has stepped over a boundary or made us feel unsafe (it could be emotional or physical).

Anger tells us about what we value. Therefore, paying attention to why we feel angry and when it occurs can tell us a lot about how we can look after ourselves, including changing boundaries or expectations of others to keep ourselves safe.

Recognising triggers also helps you map out or plan responses if you know you are going to be exposed to a situation that might elicit feelings of anger.

Let’s get physical

We all know that exercise releases lovely, feel-good endorphins in our bodies, reducing stress and making us happy. But when we experience anger, it also comes with a lot of physical energy.

It is just as essential to process and rid our body of the physical side effects of anger in addition to processing the cognitive/emotional impact. So, get your body moving to shift angry energy.

Find the positives

Sometimes, we get stuck in a rut and unconsciously start seeking our negatives, so we must actively step in and re-direct our thoughts to neutral or positive things around us.

You might recall some redeeming qualities about your ex-partner (they always try to be on time for school pick up, they love your child just as much as you do etc) and keep this positive thought at the forefront of your mind.

Consider starting a daily gratitude journal or setting daily affirmations to get your mind focused on other areas of your life that are wonderful, happy and abundant.

The non-negotiables

You can’t have rules about everything; not all parenting decisions will go your way when co-parenting. If you set too many rules or expect your ex to parent precisely the way you do, you are setting them up to fail, and it will be hard to be amicable.

So, sit down and identify the non-negotiables. What values will you hold as a family moving forward (trust, honesty, open communication etc). A couple of key values that keep you aligned as co-parents and any real non-negotiable expectations each might have (communicate in advance any changes to custody arrangements, call if you are going to be late, no mobile phones until XX age etc) is a great place to start.

Lastly, when you can’t resolve disputes by yourself, considering getting the services of neutral, third-party professional mediators may be the path to becoming a better co-parent. These are not lawyers and will not give you legal advice; however, mediators are an excellent alternative to a court battle. Mediation is generally a more peaceful and less time-consuming way to arrive at a settlement.

You might still need a lawyer to represent you and negotiate on your behalf, but mediation is typically more cost-effective than litigation. You can definitely DIY the mediation process, but that means you’d have to spend time learning about family law. If you have funds, it’s good to have a lawyer negotiating on your behalf and ensuring that the settlement terms are fair.

Mediation, however, requires that you and your ex are willing to negotiate in good faith to reach a mutually beneficial settlement, and there’s no violence involved in the separation. Otherwise, it’s best to go to a family court. As they say, leave it to the professionals.

Note: This article does not attempt to explore relationship separation due to family and domestic violence or other traumatic circumstances. In these cases, please seek advice from appropriately skilled professionals.

Final words: Let go hate and be a better co-parent

Despite these strategies, I want to normalise that it’s okay to have angry feelings or be upset with your ex-partner. Take as much time as you need to heal – you can’t rush the process. But keep in mind that you can’t and must not stay in the anger phase forever. The risk of remaining in a space with angry feelings is that, eventually, these feelings take over and creep into other areas of your life or start to affect other relationships.

By acknowledging your feelings, recognising that the only person you have control over is yourself, doing things that make you happier, and putting the limelight on your children, you can get to a better place sooner than you think.

Be kind to yourself, and focus on taking little steps away from anger. Once you do, you will notice the relief and move closer to acceptance and comfort in your co-parenting role. You become a better co-parent by actively working on getting better. Who knows? Maybe you can also inspire your ex to become a better co-parent himself.

And, after all, your ex will heal and be happy someday. You wouldn’t want to see him doing better in life while you’re still stuck in the dark, would you?

Leave a comment
Stay up to date
Register now to get updates on promotions and coupons.

Shopping cart