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Improve relationship with ex to spend more time with daughter

Boston Herald 4/3/2022 Jann Blackstone
Families of divorce. Photo Getty Images © Provided by Boston Herald Families of divorce. Photo Getty Images

Every time I ask my daughter’s mother for extra time with my daughter, she drags her feet, probably because we don’t get along so well, but my daughter always seems to either have homework or cheerleading practice or a soccer game. I’m just an “every-other-weekend dad.” I’ve tried going back to court. It helped a little, but my daughter is 9 now! What’s good ex-etiquette?

I often hear from parents who would like to have more time with their kids and get resistance from the other parent. Court can help, but it’s expensive and time-consuming, and it often makes a bad relationship with the other parent even worse.

So here is my suggestion: Improve your relationship with your daughter’s mother. I know you said you don’t get along well, but you can fix that.

This is when I hear a lot of resistance from estranged parents. “That’s ridiculous,” they say. “We couldn’t get along when we were together. We certainly can’t get along now.”

Many co-parents simply rehash the relationship they had when they were together. Things didn’t work out years ago, so that’s the way it’s going to be.

The key is to change everything. Create a new co-parenting relationship; don’t rehash the old one.

I asked a recent client who was complaining about his ex, “How long has it been since you’ve broken up?” He told me nine years.

I asked him, “Are you the same person today as you were nine years ago?”

“No!” he laughed. “I hope I’m a better person.”

“I bet your daughter’s mother feels the same way. Neither of you are the same people. Why stay in the same dysfunctional relationship based on something that is no longer true about either of you?”

When they realized had the power to build the exact relationship they wanted now — as co-parents, not exes — the light bulb went on.

Now for the practical day to day. It sounds like you view your child’s extracurricular activities as just more time away from you. Why aren’t you at cheer practice and soccer games? Why aren’t you helping your daughter with her homework?

Visitation is not a break from real life. It IS real life. You want more time with your daughter? Spend time with her at things she likes to do. Assisting the soccer coach at practices and games is a great way to spend some extra time with your child. Check in with her teacher so they know you are available to help. Chaperone field trips.

Be as present as you can, talk to mom about upcoming things and how you can share responsibilities. You both have to set the stage to get along. That’s good ex-etiquette.

Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation,” and the founder of Bonus Families, This column was provided by Tribune News Service.

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