Giving Your Jerk Ex Enough but Not Too Much Space in Divorce

Parenting Challenges During and After Divorce

With nearly half of all marriages ending in divorce, it’s important to consider your approach to parenting if it happens to you. If the split is acrimonious, do you treat your children differently? Should you limit the amount of time they spend with the other parent if your belief systems are different? How about your bedtimes? Should children be the go-between? Is it weird to have close communication with an ex?

There are seemingly hundreds of questions that come along with every step of divorce. My guest this week focuses on one in particular: what do you do if you’re co-parenting with a jerk?

My guest this week tackled that question. Julie Ross is founder and Executive Director of Parenting Horizons, an organization devoted to enriching children’s lives through parent and teacher education. She is a psychologist and author of a number of books including Joint Custody with a Jerk: Raising a Child with an Uncooperative Ex.

Strategies for Successful Co-Parenting

One of the most important things to keep in mind in your relationship with your ex is that he (or she) is still and always will be, your child’s parent. This is truly central to Ross’s philosophy. She centers on some key ideas to enable you to successfully parent through even an acrimonious divorce. And, in fact, she believes that you can judge a divorce by how the kids experience it.

Being on your best behavior and putting your children first can be a serious challenge. But creating boundaries and keeping children out of the middle of the relationship can help. In terms of managing your own frustration, Ross recommends a “slow down and consider” approach, which she defines in a unique way as the “box step” approach.

This approach involves reacting in a way that encourages calm and compassion when confronted with a problem or conflict. Basically, when facing a problem, step aside so that you’re not in a reactive state of mind. Then take a step back to consider. Then, finally, re-engage.

When you have this kind of communication, it’s easy to be honest with your children, which is precisely what they need from you in moments of distress. They need to know that you’re treating them honestly and that they’re not imagining things. This kind of frank talk will pay off later in their lives.

Parenting Horizons

Many of the points Ross makes aren’t just for parents during a divorce, or after a divorce. She has studied and published on a wide variety of parenting issues. Ross’s site, Parenting Horizons, has more information about her approach to parenting after divorce. It hosts blogs and articles about general and all-ages parenting from infancy through adulthood. Readers can find information about her workshops, including “The Power of Encouragement: Building Self-Esteem from Toddlers to Teens” and “Discipline: Setting Appropriate Limits for Today’s Children.”

If you’re considering divorce but would like to try an approach that might mean a brighter future, call my team to schedule a confidential consultation.