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Tips for a workable co-parenting relationship after divorce

If you have kids with an ex, you're going to need to work with your children's other parent. Your co-parenting relationship will last for the rest of your kids' childhood, if not longer.

If you had a bad breakup or have a contentious relationship, it can be difficult to work effectively with your ex. Nevertheless, there are many decisions you will have to make together, from setting a visitation schedule to resolving disputes.

The nonprofit information site HelpGuide.org has put together an excellent guide for co-parenting which we recommend reading in full. For this blog post, we'll just cover some good tips in a couple of areas:

It's time to set aside your hurt and anger

Once your divorce or breakup is over, it's time for a new mindset. Try thinking of your co-parenting relationship as a brand new relationship that centers around your children and future. Separate your feelings from your behavior with these two tips:

1. Find another place to get your feelings out. This could be a sibling, friend or therapist -- as long as it gives you a way to resolve your feelings that doesn't involve your ex or your children.

2. Stay focused on your kids. Remember that your children will benefit from a positive co-parenting relationship. Even when you're feeling overwhelmed with emotion, your kids need you to be the grown-up. Never put your kids in the middle of a dispute, which also means never using them as messengers between you and your ex. Above all, keep your issues with your ex to yourself and don't involve the children in relationship issues. Saying negative things about your ex may make your children feel like they have to choose.

You can improve your communication with your co-parent

The first step is to sit down and set expectations. Set a businesslike tone and commit to meeting or talking regularly. Discuss how your children will benefit from a positive co-parenting relationship.

Here are some tips on improving communication:

1. Listen. This may be the most important communication skill of all. Try to listen while assuming your co-parent's positive intent and giving them the benefit of the doubt.

2. Show restraint. If a dispute arises or your ex pushes your buttons, try not to over-react. Try quick stress-relief techniques such as taking a few deep breaths.

3. If you mess up, apologize. You will never be perfect, but you can be fair.

4. Keep your conversations focused on the children. You don't need to talk to your ex about your needs or their need. Your co-parenting relationship should focus entirely on the needs and best interests of your children.

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