Why honoring and showing respect for your ex matters to your children.
By: Matthew Shore, Moxie Inc.
I recently came across the following Facebook post that went viral. It really struck a chord with me, and, I believe, feels deeply relevant to much of the work I do on a day-to-day basis –
“It’s my ex-wife’s birthday today so I got up early and brought flowers and cards and a gift over for the kids to give her and helped them make her breakfast. Per usual someone asked me why the hell I still do things for her all the time. This annoys me. So ima break it down for you all.
I’m raising two little men. The example I set for how I treat their mom is going to significantly shape how they see and treat women and affect their perception of relationships. I think even more so in my case because we are divorced. So if you aren’t modeling good relationship behavior for your kids, get your sh*t together. Rise above it and be an example. This is bigger than you.
Raise good men. Raise strong women. Please. The world needs them, now more than ever.”
I believe the above eloquently and cleanly speaks to why and how a respectful and functional relationship with a co-parent matters. I also believe that some other points of note are worth mentioning -
Whether you like it or not, your ex remains the children’s only other parent. That means he/she is, along with you, the most important person in your children’s lives. That is an unavoidable and inescapable truth. You may be working hard to put your relationship with your ex behind you in an effort to build a new and better life for yourself, but your shared children have a very different road to travel than you do. They have to find their feet and find a way to live and thrive that allows them to know, at all times, that they have two parents in their corner, even if they live with only one of them at any given moment. Parents divorce one another and adult relationships may fizzle, but a parent remains a parent forever.
He/she remains the other half of your parenting equation and strategy whether you like it or not.
Parenting is hard. Even under the best of circumstances it is often hard. Children are necessarily challenging and most of us spend most of our time doing the very best we can without any clear sense of whether our approach is “right” and, importantly, without any clear sense of what it might all mean in terms of churning out healthy, confident, and capable people down the road. So, if we recognize and remember that parenting is hard and we benefit from all the help we can get, then it is easier to view our co-parent as a partner worth working with rather than a problem worthy of pushing against. Doing so will not only make our own lives easier, it will also increase the chances that the children understand that while they may have two homes, they still only have one unified and cohesive life. If we view our co-parent as a business partner and our children as our business, then working to create a functional, mutually satisfying, and positively evolving business relationship seems like a no brainier. Dysfunctional working relationships are poisonous and corrosive to our bottom line and, invariably, erode trust and the capacity for success. The children, always, will have two parents and will always be affected — for better or for worse — by both of them. It is, then, incumbent on both parents to find a way to secure synergy in their parenting relationship as a failure to do that is asking for trouble for the children.
Remember, always, your children are watching and learning — from you.
If you stop to think about it, that’s pretty scary. You will either show them what respect, decency, dignity, and functional disagreeing with others should look like, or you won’t. You will model for them what love, dislike, upset, and parenting should look like, or you won’t. They are, in their own way, always taking notes. Remember too that children love their parents, both of them, and feel themselves half of each. If they know, feel, hear, see one parent disrespecting the other, then that means that half of who they are is damaging to the other half of who they are and that sounds like the definition of pain to me. That’s a problem and one they do not deserve to have to contend with. Being a kid is hard enough as it is without the added difficulty of conflicted allegiances and dysfunctional co-parents.
So, please, in all you do, remember that your children are powerless in most of all that they experience and that creating a world in which their parents — especially if living in different homes — show one another respect and dignity, and are able to come together to offer their children the best of them, matters. A lot.
About Moxie Inc. Matthew Shore
Matthew Shore of Moxie Inc., MSW, LICSW, holds a Masters of Social Work degree from the University of California — Berkeley and a Bachelors Degree in Economics from the University of Wisconsin — Madison. He is also licensed by the State of Minnesota as a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker.
Matthew offers close to twenty years of experience working with children and families facing challenging times. He has, over the course of his career, worked in numerous capacities and contexts — all of which helped him gain the experience and knowledge base necessary to continue to expand his ability to help families in times of transition. Prior to developing a full-time practice with Moxie Inc., Matthew Shore worked at Hennepin County Family Court Services, where he successfully provided his clients with Custody Evaluations, Mediation Services, and Early Neutral Evaluations.
Matthew specializes in working with families and individuals contending with custody and parenting time concerns. He has a proven track record of success as a mediator, parenting consultant, and custody evaluator. He has also, over the years, successfully facilitated hundreds of Social Early Neutral Evaluations. Matthew is also one of only a handful of practitioners in the Twin Cities fully trained in Child Inclusive Mediation.
Matthew is listed as a qualified neutral under Rule 114 of the Minnesota Supreme Court’s Roster of Qualified Neutrals. He is, additionally, a member of the National Association of Social Workers and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, with whom he served two terms as a board member.
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