The ex-files

Published on December 21, 2014

The ex-files

How to co-parent with your former significant other

by Maan D’Asis Pamaran

February 15, 2014

 

 

Much as you would like to go full-throttle on bad-mouthing your ex-spouse, Relationship Coach Ali Gui says you have to put on the brakes and take the high road if you must. “When talking about your ex with your child, you have to bite your tongue. Bite it hard. Bite until it bleeds, if you have to,” she quips. That is cardinal rule number one in single parenting, she adds.

There are several more to consider, and all of these are geared towards handling the situation as best as you could. Always, at the top of your mind, the ultimate goal is to raise a happy, well-adjusted child even though you are flying solo. “As hard as it may be, sit down with your ex and make a commitment to set boundaries about your new relationship as co-parents.”

Here, she gives several dos and don’ts the confirmed better half should keep to heart. (For purposes of making it easier editorially, we put the mom as the primary stakeholder here, although we are aware that some situations arise that the kids stay with the dad.)

 

Don’t:

• Deprive the child of the other parent.

“It isn’t only self-indulgent, but self-destructive for you to thrust your children in the middle of emotional crossfire,” she says. “At the end of the day, the children have a right to know their father unless there is a compelling reason as to why the kids should be kept away, such as deep-rooted psychological issues and child abuse.” If your relationship with the ex ended because of arguments, incompatibility, or (sigh) a third party, you should keep your chin up and start talking about arrangements on visitations, holidays, and child support. “Set aside your personal differences, and focus on what would be best for your child. Do not let the child deal with adult issues,” Gui advises.

• Sabotage the child’s relationship with the other parent. Yes, we are sure there are choice words you would like to say about the dad, but Gui admonishes, “as much as gigil na gigil ka na, kailangan mong magpigil. Just because he may not have been a good spouse does not mean that he cannot be a good father.” In the same vein, do not use the child as a pawn to get back at your former partner. Don’t use occasions such as birthdays or school programs as a way to lay on the guilt trip or to put daddy inside the pressure cooker. Keep things pleasant and ampalaya-free. use the child as a source of information. After visitation day, do not pump the child for the latest unrelated updates about the dad. “Children are like reporters, and they notice a lot of things. But do not use the child to spy on daddy’s new girlfriend, asking questions like, ‘ano, pango ba ang ilong?’”

• treat the child as a crutch.

“Sometimes I want to tear the hair out of moms who say, ‘daddy’s gone, so you have to be the man of the house.’ The child is only 5 or 7 years old, how can he possibly fulfill the duties of an adult? A child should be a source of inspiration and joy, but not the parent’s sole source of happiness and emotional support!” Gui chides. Do not burden your children with situations they cannot control. Children should not bear such a responsibility.

•compete with your ex. “If they go out and daddy buys your child a new pair of shoes, don’t go for one-upmanship by going out and buying a more expensive brand. If your child enjoys their day out, let it be. Don’t burden the child with feelings of guilt just because he enjoyed his day out with daddy, and never convert your guilt into overindulging your child with material things,” she says.

 

 

Do:

• keep calm.  Sit down with your ex and make an affirmative plan that sets aside any differences you may have, and focus instead on meeting the needs of your children. Swallow that pride, Gui says. “Being a parent means putting your child’s best interests above your own, and that means finding a way to form an amicable relationship with your ex as co-parents.” Here, she says, parents should negotiate and agree on how they can best handle things like visitation, holidays, or events. The in-laws are still in it too, she adds, so she suggests talking about the role extended family members will play and the access they’ll be granted while your child is in each other’s charge.

• foster respect. “Agree with your ex that you absolutely won’t belittle each other to your children. Further, forbid your children to speak disrespectfully about the other parent, even though it may be music to your ears,” Gui smiles.

•keep lines open. She explains, “Communicate actively with your ex about all aspects of your child’s development. If before you text asking your honey about how his day went, progressing to sending SMS messages with expletives, now is the time to simply say things like the child is getting high grades in school or winning the class quiz bee.” She adds, “Although it may be emotionally painful, make sure that you and your ex keep each other informed about changes in your life so that the child is never, ever the primary source of information.” If you do hear something, the best way is to get it from the horse’s mouth and confirm new information.

•keep a united front. “Children are prone to testing a situation and manipulating boundaries and guidelines, especially if there’s a chance to get something they may not ordinarily be able to obtain. So, you may start hearing the words, ‘but daddy says okay’. If daddy really does say ‘it’s okay’, but it goes against your own ground rules, call the ex up and explain why you think your 7-year-old is not ready for a sleepover,” she recommends. Playing good cop/bad cop is not a good idea at this point.

•commit to conducting yourself with emotional integrity. Focus your efforts on what your children need most during this difficult time: acceptance, assurance of safety, freedom from guilt or blame for their parents’ break up, structure and a stable parent.

 

Getting past the emotional turmoil can be a demanding task, but you can – and should – still get support from your former flame. Though the romance may have fizzled out, there should still be a shared passion in raising your offspring.

Miss Ali Gui is available for counseling every Wednesday, 7pm at Frontera Verde, Ortigas Avenue corner C5 Road, Pasig City. For more information, like her Facebook page, Ms. A Says.  

 

 


Category(s):Child and/or Adolescent Issues

Written by:

Lillian Ng Gui

Registered Psychologist and Psychometrician.
Child Psychotherapist at SLU-Sunflower on the Hill.
Member, Board of Trustees at Alliance Graduate School
Official Consultant and Relational Life Coach, Psychologist/Counselor of Survivor Philippines, and GMA News TV
Teaching position at Asian Center for Missions
Member of Psychological Association of The Philippines (PAP)
Member of Philippine Guidance and Counseling Association (PGCA)
Member of American Psychological Association (APA)
Member of International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD)

Lillian Ng Gui belongs to Psychological Association of the Philippines in Philippines

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