My Experience With Co-Parenting After Divorce
We are immensely proud to see that the participants in our programs, readers of our blog, and followers on our social media create a special community that likes to share experiences and views on various early childhood development topics. Sometimes, a personal story can leave a bigger impression than dozens of books written by experts. That’s why today we share with you a personal story of Jelena Fu, our blogger, where she explains how she dealt with co-parenting after divorce.
A few days ago I had a video call with my ex-husband and our daughter. Now that we live on three different continents video calls have replaced our regular family lunches. Our daughter had some doubts about university courses, so she wanted our advice. We discussed that along with other usual things. No fighting, no animosity, no blaming…just a normal, friendly, family conversation with the same aim – supporting our daughter.
Sounds like a divorced parenting paradise? Well, it was not easy getting there.
We have been through hell, had to sort out the huge mess and recover from the trauma of a divorce, just like other divorced couples. It took time, forgiveness, understanding, reinventing, and a lot of letting go. Maybe we failed at marriage, but we definitely managed to make the divorce work well.
With divorce came the new roles
Our new parenting path had to start with a big paradigm shift: from romantic life partners, we had to learn to become life-long cousins. Realizing that we are forever bonded by having a child together wasn’t simple. Gradually we learned to accept and appreciate our new roles, leaving behind the old expectations, overcoming resentment we had for each other, healing the hurt we caused each other. This meant we could easily go to parent meetings together, celebrate our daughter’s high school graduation together, help her move to another country together…
We kept anger and disappointment only for us
The thing I personally found tough at the beginning of co-parenting after divorce was watching what I was saying about my ex in front of our daughter. My anger and disappointment with him easily found a verbal way out and my daughter was left confused – “Should I not love my father now?”
My ex was much better at it and slowly I learned from him.
He would only say the best things about me, even when my daughter called him to complain about me. “Your mother must have a reason for that”, he would say. Then he’d call me privately to ask what happened. I appreciated that so much and it helped me change my behavior. I chose to see a good side of him – the one that got me to marry him in the first place. My words changed from being bitter to being respectful and kind. It was also a great relief for our girl.
In time everyone adjusted
Our both families stayed out of our way in the whole divorce and post-divorce situation and for that, I am eternally grateful to them. They never asked anything, didn’t chase us with advice, they simply offered their unwavering support. They smoothly transitioned to a new scenario, accepting it fully. Even now I love visiting my ex-in-laws. Despite having a new daughter-in-law since my ex remarried, they show me love and affection and welcome me into their home with open arms. The same goes for my family’s attitude toward my ex. Our daughter never heard a bad word being said about her parents from her grandparents, uncles, and aunts (and vice versa).
Ego aside and our daughter’s wellbeing first
We quickly realized that co-parenting after divorce was still about the partnership and teamwork and that any kind of power struggle would be damaging for our child. We had to put our egos aside and put our daughter’s wellbeing first. No jealousy, manipulation, going behind each other’s back, trying to show who is a “better parent”, bribing the child with gifts, vacations, etc.
We always agreed on our parenting mission
It really helped that we both saw our parenting mission clearly and agreed on it – to raise our daughter well, to give her love and understanding, to support her on her life path to the best of our abilities and according to her needs and wishes. We talked about that regularly, adjusting as she was growing. We started including her in those conversations which turned into our regular lunch family meetings.
It’s not like we agree all the time, but we keep the conversation going, never shutting the door and always having in mind the reason why we have to make it work – our daughter.
About the author: Jelena Fu is an educator with extensive experience working in China. She has designed curricula for different subjects and ages, held training for teachers and workshops for parents. She has been practicing meditation for many years and wants to pass on her experience and the benefits of meditation to others. Her meditations on the Insight Timer app are very popular. She attended the TEDx Conference in Shanghai in 2015 and regularly writes articles on education and parenting.