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Co-parenting without going crazy

As any divorced parent with kids will tell you, co-parenting with the ex is a work in progress. Usually, it gets easier with more time and distance from the emotional havoc of the divorce, but issues still manage to crop up from time to time.

Since both parents' goal should be to rear emotionally, physically and psychologically healthy children, it's important to put aside lingering resentments and work together for the common good. Below are some tips for parents still trying to get the hang of co-parenting with a former spouse.

You must communicate

This can be difficult right after a divorce when feelings run high on both sides. In the past, your style of conflict resolution was likely lacking, contributing to the need for a divorce. It's up to the two of you to agree to change the way you relate to one another to avoid triggering a blow-out.

Sometimes newly divorced parents find it easier to discuss the kids via email or text. This is less personal, but it's important to keep the tone civil and emotionally neutral since both communication forms can be misinterpreted.

To make sure that both parents are on the same page regarding school events, practices, games and other important activities involving the kids, use a computer program designed to keep the kids' custody calendar updated for both parents.

Accept your ex will be an occasional presence in your life

Birthday parties, soccer games and awards ceremonies are all events that you and your ex (and possibly new partners) will attend. Make sure that you are civil and polite - even if it kills you. Remember that your children model their behavior after yours.

Accept what you can't control

While it's true that children do best with structure and continuity, the time spent with your ex will never be an exact replica of time spent with you. Slight discrepancies in the rules and parenting styles are fine. Major differences should be addressed between the adults without the children present.

It doesn't have to be rigid

Parents have scheduling conflicts that can interfere with visitation. Kids have plans and commitments that can make custody switches difficult. Allow for flexibility to alter the arrangements when it's best for the kids, or as a favor to your ex. The next time, it might be you who needs some leeway.

Consider a custody modification if necessary

What worked well when the kids were 4 and 6 can really chafe when they are 14 and 16. Be willing to work with your ex to devise a new parenting plan that meets their changing needs. Your family law attorney can advise you on the changes you wish to make and file the order with the court.

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