Studies show that improper handling of post-divorce life is what most adversely impacts children. But Texas psychologist and author Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D., has a radical solution for how to approach post-divorce parenting: Transform them into an ally.
“Treat your ex-spouse as a valued ally upon whom you depend to work toward a common objective—the welfare of the children,” says Pickhardt. “To maintain and cultivate this alliance, treat him or her diplomatically by demonstrating acts of consideration that convey the value you place upon this relationship.”
But how exactly do you go about moving from enemy to ally? In a recent article for Psychology Today, Pickhardt outlines “10 Articles of Consideration” to create more harmonious relationship with your ex. Even if he (or she) is not willing to agree to these promises, embracing them as your own personal ground rules will provide you with a greater sense of purpose and perspective as a person and a parent.
- “I will be reliable.” Keep the arrangements you make with your ex and your children. If your schedule changes, let your ex know right away — don’t communicate solely through your kids. (Dislike talking to your ex? There are apps to make it easier!)
- “I will be responsible.” Honor your obligations to provide for your children. Provide them your share of financial and emotional support as agreed to in your divorce decree.
- “I will be appreciative.” Acknowledge your ex’s efforts with your children. A polite “thank you” now and then goes a long way.
- “I will be respectful.” Vow to speak positively about your children’s father or mother (at least when the kids are with you.) If you have disagreements or concerns, speak directly to your ex — do not use your children as messengers.
- “I will be flexible.” When possible, make an effort to modify childcare arrangements when your ex has conflicting commitments. Try to be responsive to unexpected change. (If your ex makes last minute schedule changes frequently, document them via email just in case you need to revisit the terms of your agreement.)
- “I will be tolerant.” Now that you’re divorced, accept that you cannot control your ex’s behavior. Trying to impose your standards on your ex’s lifestyle will only make you crazy. As long as your children are safe and well cared for and the terms of your divorce are honored, accept that your ex has moved on and so should you.
- ”I will be supportive.” There will be times (especially during teen years) when your child and your ex may not see eye to eye. Don’t get in the middle or take sides. Support your ex’s relationship with your children rather than using disagreements to drive a wedge between them. Encourage your child to work things out with your ex — and visa versa.
- “I will be involved.” Even if you are not the primary custodian, take an appropriately active role in your children’s lives. Share the good times and the bad. Offer to problem-solve with your ex when your children have difficulties.
- “I will be responsive.” Be available to help cope with your children’s emergencies and on-call in times of crisis. (See #8)
- ”I will be reasonable.” Differences are inevitable. Try not to react. Take your time to process and try to talk through them in a calm and constructive manner. Keep communicating until you work out a resolution that is acceptable to both of you. If you reach an impasse, engage the help of an unbiased third party (attorney, counselor, spiritual director or therapist) to help work through the issue.
Consider posting these Articles of Consideration in a spot you’ll see every day to remind you — and your kids — what matters most. (You’ll be setting a positive example for your kids.) You may not be able to uphold all these promises 100 percent of the time, but setting these standards for yourself will help you stay on track — even when you’re at odds with your ex.