How to Tolerate Your Ex for Your Kid's Sake

dealing with your ex

Just because your relationship is over doesn't mean that your kid's relationship with your ex is over, too. Sometimes that is a good thing. Other times, it's just plain tricky.


"While children benefit greatly from having both parents in their lives, the practicalities of this are negotiable," notes Paul Hokemeyer, JD, PhD, a licensed marriage and family therapist who works out of New York City, Los Angeles and Telluride, Colorado. "When figuring out the when, who, and how of this, parents should start and end by considering, 'What's in the best interest of our child?'"

Sounds easy enough on paper. But real life is messy. Maybe your ex has a gambling problem. Or you're still in love with him but he has a hideous new girlfriend. Or, could be he's simply a sociopathic jerk.

Complicated? Totally. But here are a few rules to keep in mind when it comes to dealing with any ex.

Put your ego aside. Let's say you're on okay terms with your ex, but you can't stand his new condo/skinny jeans/haircut. Or maybe he really does have a hideous new girlfriend. While your instinct may be to keep your kid away, "look out for your own anger and resentment," cautions Dr. Hokemeyer. "It's toxic and will cloud your judgment."

Keep in mind, he adds, that this isn't about your pride. "It's about your child and providing them as much love and support as possible."

Realize you'll need to make compromises. The logistics of getting your child over to see your ex may be ridiculous. It could very well cost you time and money, or simply drain you emotionally every time you have to be in the same room as your ex.

But you know what? "It's important to keep this in perspective and focus on your child," notes Dr. Hokemeyer, "rather than what you're sacrificing to give your child a full life."

In other words, stop harping on how now you're stuck in rush hour traffic on Fridays or will have to reschedule the Music and Me class you were going to do with some other mom friends. (Although it sucks! We get it.) Then remind yourself how lucky it is that your kiddo has another parent who loves them. (Even if you don't love him. Or being stuck in that #$*& traffic.)

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Don't lash out. Of course, there's a valid reason -- maybe hundreds of 'em -- why your ex and you are no longer together. But "the key to helping everyone move forward," says Dr. Hokemeyer, "is to let go of the past, accept a new 'now,' and build a successful future."

That means, Dr. Hokemeyer adds, "you'll need to bracket off your negative and hostile feelings in the moment to enable your child to have what he or she deserves -- a life where they feel loved, nurtured, and valued by as many people in their lives as possible."

Annoyed, hurt, inconvenienced? Don't spew at your ex or dump it on your kids. If you need to vent -- and of course you do, you're human after all -- spill to a friend or loved one, or go talk to a therapist.

But ... be tough when you need to be. Does your ex struggle with an addiction or behavioral disorder? Then trust your instinct. "It's okay to limit your child's exposure to them and require that visitation be supervised," says Dr. Hokemeyer.

Let's go one step farther. Is there a potential for physical or emotional abuse? That changes everything. "You need to protect your child and not allow them to be in the sole care of your ex," Dr. Hokemeyer says.



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