Those of us who are single parents by divorce often struggle with the best ways to interact with the ex. Naturally, there is some level of communication required when you are co-parenting, but how far should it go? I think the right answer is different for each situation.
Realize that not every divorce is the bitter, angry stereotype often portrayed – but those definitely exist too! I know divorced parents who hardly communicate at all (heck, some married couples hardly communicate), and rely on email to discuss only the necessary business. In these types of relationships (if you can call them that), little to no communication often IS what’s best for the child(ren), as silence sure beats outright argument and unnecessary drama.
On the other end of the spectrum are the divorced parents who can put aside their differences and remain friends, or at least friendly. I’ve seen parents who manage to throw a birthday party for their child together, even with grandparents present. Imagine having a good relationship with your in-laws even after divorce (ha ha)!
Believe it or not, there are divorced parents who still get together, with their children, for holidays. I’ve written once before about starting new holiday traditions after divorce, but it seems some parents keep the old ones going together. Personally, I think one of the “perks” of being a child of divorced parents is that you get two birthday parties, and two Christmases, and double the gifts … or at least that’s how we make the kids feel better about their parents not being together.
The real test comes with the big decisions. Legally, joint custody means that both parents make decisions with regards to religion, school and health for their children. But I’ve seen plenty of people struggle with putting aside their own motives in order to really do what’s right for the kids.
Many couples split due to their irreconcilable religious reasons, for example – and then does one “let” his/her children go to the church to which the ex belongs?
When parents live in different school districts, how do they decide where the child will go to school? Often “good schools” is a major factor when buying a house as a married couple, so it follows that education should be a priority for divorced parents as well. I don’t know of any parent who would jeopardize their child’s health simply because they’ve had a bitter divorce, though I imagine there are battles in that arena as well sometimes.
The best parents are the ones who can rise above their differences and truly put the needs of the child(ren) first. What exactly that means depends on the people and circumstances involved. I’ve seen it go both ways, and I’ve seen some very frustrated parents who are forced to deal with a co-parent that simply is not mature enough to let go of their own grudge.
We do our best to shelter our children from the pain, and we keep on trying.
Stacy Lamb of Apex is the divorced mom of two. She also is organizer for Single Parents of the Triangle. Find her here monthly on Wednesday.