Family splits are hard on kids and parents, but they can be easier when parents get along, according to Melinda Smith, who has a master's degree in psychology, and her co-author Jocelyn Block, writing for HelpGuide.org. Behaving cordially and cooperatively benefits the parents because there is less conflict and fewer ill feelings to color family activities and interactions. It also benefits the children because they feel more secure and supported and learn problem-solving skills by watching the co-parenting interaction.
Envision a Family
See yourself as a family living in two different homes, but still a unit connected by your child, suggests psychologist and divorced mother, Judith Ruskay Rabinor. In a Huffington Post article, Rabinor suggests that you take a deep breath before saying something derogatory about your child’s father, especially in front of your child, because she doesn’t need to hear it and you’ll feel better not saying it. She also recommends letting go of past hurts, forgiving yourself and your ex, expressing gratitude for his willingness to remain a part of your child’s life and expressing appreciation to him for his efforts whenever possible. You can build a new, friendly relationship with him if you take the high road and consider your child’s needs because the focus will be on helping your child rather than dwelling on the past.
Boundaries Without False Hopes
While it's important to try to get along with each other, if you behave overly friendly with your child’s father, your child can develop false hopes that you will get back together, according to family therapist Jann Blackstone in a Bonus Families article. Set boundaries that include being cordial without sharing hugs and kisses or expressions of affection, especially in the early years following the split. Blackstone suggests a friendly but business-like relationship that put the interests of the child first and limits the amount of time you spend together being close friends.
Supporting the Father-Child Relationship
Encourage your ex to spend time with your child and support their relationship. When your child’s father is actively involved in her life, your ex is also more likely to make his child support payments, according to a "The Future of Children" journal article. He might also contribute to the economic support of your child in additional ways that aren't reflected through child support payments, such as providing insurance, clothing, school fees and lessons. That can help you be realistic about your finances. Peace of mind can reduce your post-relationship stress. It's easier to feel friendly toward your child's father when you know that your ex would care for your child if something happens to you.
Include Your Ex
When you receive a parent-teacher conference request or schedule an important medical visit, invite your child's father to attend. Work together for your child’s best interest in all areas. Attend your child’s activities together and support your child. When you concentrate on how your behavior will affect your child, it's easier to be amicable and put your best face forward, which can help you and your child's father to be friendly with one another in your interactions with each other.
Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.
Noel Hendrickson/Digital Vision/Getty Images