Dealing With An Uncooperative Co-Parent

Parenting in general is a difficult task. It isn’t exactly easy to be fully responsible for the well-being of another human. When two parents work together to raise their kids in a happy, healthy environment, the act of parenting might feel less overwhelming. Even though this might be true in some cases, it certainly isn’t the situation that many families across the nation find themselves in.

According to a United States Census Bureau report from 2011, more than one-fourth of children under 21 in the United States lived with only one parent. This number has remained relatively constant over the last decade, as in 1995, the same survey found that 3 out of every 10 children lived with only one parent. In many of these cases, a divorce or separation has likely been the cause which creates a single-parent household. Not all parents who have gone through divorce or separation find themselves in a single-parent household situation, but when a co-parent is being uncooperative, it can make the other feel more like a single parent rather than being involved in a parenting partnership. Finding yourself co-parenting with an uncooperative or completely absent ex is not an idea situation, but there are things that can be done in order to make this situation better for you and your children. A few of these things include supporting your kids emotionally and physically, making the most of your available resources, and taking care of your own well-being.

Whether you are just beginning the process of separation or have been divorced for quite some time, co-parenting is full of uncertain moments, especially if your ex is rather uncooperative. You’re not the only one who is experiencing feelings of uncertainty; it’s likely that your kids are, too. If their other parent is uncooperative or out of the picture altogether, your kids will strongly feel their absence.  It was never their choice to be placed in a situation where one of their parents is not an active part of their lives, but they must move through it in one way or another. To get your kids through the tough times in a healthy way, they need a good deal of support from you in order to maintain their emotional and physical health. Help your kids stay emotionally healthy by allowing them to share their feelings with you, no matter what those feelings may be. They should feel free to speak about what’s on their mind without fear of judgement or ridicule, even if what they want to talk about has to do with their other parent. As much as you may wish for your child to have the same feelings about their other parent as you do, you should not expect them to. Kids should be allowed to let their feelings and thoughts evolve over time, so don’t be surprised if their thoughts about their other parent change as they grow older. In some ways, emotional health is directly tied to physical health, so the more content that your kids are emotionally, the more likely they are to feel well physically. To further promote your child’s physical health, set them up with a variety of fun activities that get them moving, like sports practice or play dates with friends at a local park. These activities can help them to focus their minds on something other than the emotional stress they might be feeling while also learning new skills and making friends.

Co-parenting with an uncooperative ex creates added stress for you and your kids, and part of that stress may come from not always having a multitude of resources right at hand. When there’s only one income and several people which must be cared for, things can start to feel rather tight very quickly. Child support payments can play a positive role in parenting after divorce because they help to provide a custodial parent with more resources to provide to the kids. If you receive child support payments, use these funds wisely on things like food, clothing, and other supplies for your kids. Budget these funds so that you can stretch them as far as possible. Also, if you do share custody with an uncooperative co-parent, you may want to think about investing in some extra items for your kids. For example, a day of biking could easily be ruined if you find that your child’s helmet is at their other house, and your co-parent is unwilling or unable to drop it off. Even if it’s not your child’s favorite helmet, having a second one ready to go at your house can save the day. Second-hand stores often provide a variety of good quality items for a low cost. Also, keep your eyes open for sales that pop up occasionally on things like kids clothing or craft supplies. You can save some money on these items by buying at the right time.

While you’re doing all of these things for your kids to make things easier on them, you cannot forget to take some time to care for yourself. Creating a happy, healthy environment for your family to thrive in is much more difficult to do if you are not well yourself. Regular exercise and healthy eating can help you to feel better physically, and you can share these parts of your routine with your kids. Go on walks or bike rides together at a local park. Show your kids how to make a nutritious meal by cooking together. When you aren’t with your kids, do some things that make you feel good. Spend time with good friends, or work on a project you’ve been wanting to complete. Also, trying new things can also add some needed excitement to your life. You can try something simple such as cooking a new recipe for dinner or learning a new exercise, or your can take a greater leap into new things by taking a night class on a new subject, cutting your hair in a new way, or painting some rooms in your house a new color. Meeting new people or even dating is always exciting, so if you feel like you are in good place to let new people into your life, that may be something to consider.

It might not be easy or fun to co-parent with an uncooperative ex, but for the multitude of families dealing with this reality, it must be done in some way or another. Being able to offer your kids both emotional and physical support promotes a healthy lifestyle in your kids. Making the most of the resources available helps prepare you for whatever comes your way. Finally, taking care of yourself and your own well-being helps make you more able to offer your kids the support that they need to be well too. All in all, co-parenting with an uncooperative or completely absent ex isn't ideal, but even through the challenges you may face, you and your kids can still thrive as a family. 

U.S. Census Bureau. (2011). Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: Washington D.C. Retrieved 21 July 2015, from: http://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2013/demo/p60-246.pdf

U.S. Census Bureau. (1995). Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: Washington D.C. Retrieved 21 July 2015, from: https://www.census.gov/prod/99pubs/p60-196.pdf