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Steps toward creating a healthy co-parenting relationship

After your divorce or breakup, you went to the trouble of getting a child custody and visitation order. If you thought that order spelled out everything you need to do, however, you're in for a surprise. The truth is that you will need to work with the other parent for the rest of your kids' childhood.

Children whose parents work effectively together:

  • Feel secure and confident in the love of their parents
  • Benefit from consistent rules, discipline, rewards and expectations
  • Are better at problem solving
  • Have a healthier example to follow on building and maintaining relationships
  • Are healthier overall, both mentally and emotionally, and are less likely to develop depression, anxiety or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

To get started on a healthy co-parenting relationship, you need to accept that the wrongs of the past, your emotions and your needs need to take a back seat. It's hard work, but it's critical to your children's happiness, wellbeing and stability.

The parenting site HelpGuide.org has a great list of tips and hacks to improve your co-parenting. Today, we'll just cover two tips on getting into the right mindset to build a workable relationship with the other parent.

Work to separate your feelings from your behavior

Setting aside resentment and anger may be the most difficult but vital part of good co-parenting. Chances are, you have good cause, but now it's time to let your children's best interest motivate your actions. Here are two things that can help:

Find someone else who will listen. Instead of trying to resolve things with your ex -- or worse, vent to your child -- find another way to get those feelings out. Let off steam with exercise, vent to a friend or hire a therapist.

Keep the focus on your child. Remembering why you need a businesslike relationship for parenting can help you act in concert with your values.

Keep your kids out of the middle

Compartmentalize your bitterness and never, ever let it spill out onto your kids. Resolve to keep them your issues, even if your ex doesn't do the same.

Saying negative things about your ex to your children can make your kids feel like they have to choose. Dividing their loyalties, even over a single issue, hurts them. Your children have a right to build a positive relationship with your ex.

Don't ever use your children as messengers. Even asking them to relay brief, seemingly unimportant messages to your ex can put them right in the middle of a conflict. If you can't call or email your ex directly, ask for a neutral third party such as a custody administrator to act as a go-between.

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