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Parenting is hard. There’s no guidebook. Most of us do the best we can and hope we’re doing it right, or at least with the least damage possible. It is hard enough to agree on parenting when you are married and living in the same house. It can seem impossible for both parents to agree when you are separated or divorced. However difficult it may seem, it is possible for you both to parent together with the proper outlook on parenting, if you avoid some common pitfalls.

Avoid competition with your ex—no one wins. Never use your children as a way of punishing your ex. Avoid speaking poorly about your ex in front of your children. When your kids hear these insults, they may not know how to feel or respond and may believe you think the same way about them. Do not use the children as “messengers.” Let the kids be kids and communicate with the other parent—whether that is in person, phone, email, or text. Avoid discussions of child support or other financial issues in front of your children.

What you should do instead: love your children more than you hate your ex. You may have heard the term “co-parenting”. Courts and attorneys and other people who have been through the system use that term often. Really, it’s just parenting. If you end up in court, you must show the judge that you can be a parent with your ex even though you are no longer living in the same house. Co-parenting includes communication and cooperation—putting the needs of the children above your disdain for the other parent.

Divorce changes things. It changes the holidays and school vacations. It changes your day-to-day life. Your love for your children does not have to change. Try to involve your spouse in decisions as much as possible. Encourage the other parent to be an active part of the lives of your children. While children are resilient, they do not need to be burdened with fighting and disagreements with you and your spouse. With a conscious effort and good communication, you both can be the best parents to your children, which will benefit everyone in the long run.

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