tanya&max2013_v2by Tanya Kovarsky, mom of toddler Max,  dishes up a good dose of Jewish guilt to herself daily. She’s a freelance trainer, copywriter, editor & blogs at Rattle and Mum and Dear Max

My parents got divorced when I was 13, in my first year of high school and at a difficult stage where I just wanted to be like everyone else – including a nuclear “normal” family. My life shifted immediately and I found myself stuck in the middle of two parents – one who was bitter, resentful and depressed, and the other who resented the other’s bitterness and depression. I often felt like a peacemaker, pawn and casualty in their divorce, and it broke me at times.

So, when I faced my own divorce two years ago, my ex and I vowed then that our toddler (two yrs at the time) would come first, putting aside our own sadness and occasional pain and anger.

My son didn’t ask for two homes, or to have his little family separated and new partners brought in, so my aim is to carve the smoothest road that I can out of a hard-impacting event. Here’s how we have done it:

Showing mutual respect

It’s important to me that my son sees that his parents respect each other, that they can organise his birthday parties together, and never badmouth each other, lest he ever feels negatively towards us because of it, or feels like he has to choose one over the other.

Communicating

The truth is, I don’t know how I could parent successfully if I didn’t communicate regularly with my ex. We are in constant touch about our son, whether it’s a query about his routine, marvelling at his use of the toilet (I may or may not have sent him some pics of my son on the loo), or brainstorming what to do about his whining or tantrums.

Supporting each other

And there are times where I’ve been sick, or tired, or working on a deadline and have asked my ex to look after our son on “my” nights or days with him, and he has done so gladly. Because this is how good co-parenting works, I think.

Perhaps it’s overcompensation over my parents’ divorce, the guilt that I have for my son, or maybe it’s because I don’t “work” well in warring situations that I’m trying to lessen the impact this divorce has on my son. But whatever it is, I’m working hard at keeping my son the centre of mutual respect and parenting, rather than the middle of sparring and anger.

And while most divorcing parents say it, and with meaning and the best intentions, things often get in the way of executing it. Anger, fear, grief and resentment prevent us from putting our kids first, but I’m glad that my ex and I are able to practise it.

Note: If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the uniquely detailed free weekly newsletter for parents in Gauteng – Jozikids – or KwaZulu-Natal – Kznkids.

10 Responses to “Divorced parents can co-parent successfully”

  • Yvette Thompson says:

    It would be nice if all parents could manage this but I know from experience that whilst one is hurting its never easy to have this type of relationship with your ex. Counselling is an avenue but time is probably what is the more realistic scenario. I keep a level head and do not retaliate sometimes just being nice when the other is being nasty because they are hurting is the answer. If one of the parents bad mouths the other to the children you have to explain to your little ones that their Daddy or Mommy are hurting and that they do not mean what they say and its a process of healing once they have been hurt.

  • Wendy Sharon Harrison says:

    I agree, in a perfect world this would be ideal, however in most cases, divorce brings out the demons. I would have loved to have that kind of relationship for the sake of my children. However my ex became spiteful and tried his best to ruin me financially. (He did a pretty good job, but I survived.) Three years on, he hasn't changed his spots/scales at all. If only one parent acts as a parent and works towards the best interest of the children, then there is no hope. I now co-parent with the godparents, grandparents and my partner, so we are not alone and get a lot of love and support.

  • Wow…what an inspiration. Unfortunately my situation is anything but this. Well done.

  • Your articles are always informative and really encouraging parents to prctice good principles in life! Thank you so much!

  • I agree with Leanne, most cases are not picture perfect, cause there are many factors that come into play that to be said frankly makes it a living hell sometimes, I would say that the also decipline should be kept the same at both parents, it doesn't help where one parent shows decipline and the other parent has a f u attitude, and that f u attitude is what makes the child a very naughty brat. so in the perfect world the above article is perfect, but this ain't such a perfect world no matter how hard we try to make it one.

  • David de Mattos says:

    Well written, and I try this with my ex. Not always easy, but the kids MUST come first.

    • Brigitte Philogene says:

      Oh boy oh boy oh boy. I'm about to embark on this. Doesn't bode well for the control freak that is me but I will do what it takes to have a happy peaceful loved little boy :)

  • We use to be like this until my ex started dating this woman that did not like our son and it was all about this woman and what she wanted and our son had to take a back seat, very painfully for our son, and its hard to respect someone like that, when you see the pain in your sons eyes as he speaks about his feelings. It takes both sides for this to work and both must be committed.

  • Wow.. sounds idillyic… Pity it doesn't work like that when the one party will do anything to make the other one unhappy even if it eventually negatively affects the child but they would rather cut off their nose to spite their face. I'm in a situation where my ex makes sure that I do not have anything that I need with regards to our child because of course he blames me 100% for our break up. and its also hard not to get your back up in the process but its ok… I will do whatever I need to do for my boy whether his father wants to help or not! Sad situations….

Leave a Reply