How to co-parent with your ex

Krystal Martinez  |   18 Jul 2023

Co-parenting can be tricky. Not all families fit traditional set-ups and it can sometimes feel the odds are against us.

Today, successful co-parent Krystal Martinez shares her experience and expertise about how to co-parent so you can approach this next stage in your family’s life with confidence.

Krystal is a writer for brands like Scary Mommy and is the Founder of the conscious parenting blog, The Unconventional Mom. As a first-time mama, and long-time alchemist, she uses her brand as a catalyst to help parents and families live and sustain a more conscious way of life.

Over to Krystal…

Okay, I’ll be the one to say it – co-parenting sucks.

When we bring children into the world, the last thing we want to do as parents is to make life harder for them by splitting their lives in half. Being a kid is complex and asking them to constantly be in two places can be confusing to them.

For me, this realization came early on in my marriage, and I had to accept that our son would only know us as co-parents and never know what it was like to have parents living together. This is a common reality in many American households as, according to the World Population Review, 50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce. And blogger Brandon Gaille shares, “one out of every three Americans is either a step-parent, a step-child, or has some other form of a blended family, which is almost 100 million people.”

It seems many of us are working out how to co-parent.

Centuries-old idealized views about marriage being for life still reside in our collective subconscious – thanks, Disney – but in the modern-day, blended families are actually very common.


So why is co-parenting with an ex so difficult? Because we are still learning how to thrive in this new norm! Humans aren’t so great with change.

Conscious parents are leading the pack here; building pathways for others to discover how to expand their relationship with their ex-partners in a way that allows their children to see love is possible – even in platonic circumstances.

So let’s get into the nitty-gritty.

Here’s how to evolve your co-parenting dynamic from the bane of your existence to something you’ll be proud of:

1. Accept the co-parenting situation and your ex-partner

To reach my position of acceptance, I navigated a long rabbit hole of resistance. When I separated from my husband, my son was only four months old. I wasn’t even ready to parent, let alone be a single mom. I was not willing to be okay with the fact that everything I imagined for myself and my kids was shattered overnight. I couldn’t bear feeling I had failed.

I spent nights thinking of ways not to be a single mom (no matter how irrational) – I even tried to reconcile with my ex-husband and suggested dynamics that were uncomfortable for him. In hindsight, these were not attempts to co-parent but my way of trying to hold onto a reality that was crumbling.

To accept our co-parenting situation, I had to surrender.

Here’s how I came to accept my co-parenting status:

  • I cried, grieving the life I hoped for my family
  • I went to therapy to talk it out and create coping mechanisms
  • I wrote letters to myself and my ex-partner to ease the resentment and judgment I had for the two of us

Just like any relationship, if we cling to things from the past, we are hindering our ability to trust and form stronger relationships in the future. Through discovering how to co-parent, I learned the only way to create a conscious co-parenting relationship is to have a clean slate. Even if you are co-parenting with a narcissist, you have to let the past go.

It can be scary to do this, but sometimes the decisions that scare you are the most are the ones most worthwhile.


2. Reframe your perception of what co-parenting is

I don’t know who needs to read this, but being together or separated with kids is essentially the same relationship – just without intimacy.

One of the most common things I notice when two people divorce is that they create entirely independent lives and then wonder why they feel stressed when attempting to create a schedule with their co-partner. This strain also translates to the children. If you are exhausted with your co-parenting dynamic, I guarantee you so are your children.

Blended families are successful when both parents come together to create a unified life where all parties feel they are listened to, valued and are getting what they need.

Effective co-parenting can look like this:

  • Considering more blended weekly schedules. Allowing a parent to do after-school duty while the other works, split weeks between each parent instead of every other week.
  • Spending holidays and birthdays together.
  • Scheduling miscellaneous dinners, lunches, or activities with both parents (and step-parents if everyone gets along).
  • Allowing your child to see the other parent if they request it, even if it’s out of your set schedule. Flexibility is key to making co-parenting work.
  • Going on family trips and vacations together.

If you don’t get along well enough with your ex-partner to do these things, consider sharing experiences with family members you do have a good relationship with – such as your partner’s parents or siblings.

Having strong family ties helps maintain a sense of unity for the kids and creates a sense of safety that they never have to choose between parents or either side of relatives.

3. Create a system that works best for your blended family

In a co-parenting relationship, communication is crucial. You must be able to express and agree on your relationship must-haves and dealbreakers. For example, how will you both introduce new partners to your children?

My ex-partner and I have agreed that we are a family unit regardless of relationship status. Our weekly schedule is blended, and all holidays and birthdays are spent together. We also have spontaneous outings with the children and expect to continue when new partners are introduced because we are all (new partners included) raising these children together. Any partners that come into our family will have to accept us as a package deal because this relationship is the foundation of our lives.

My ex and I didn’t get to this stage of successful co-parenting overnight. It took a lot of work on both sides and a conscious effort to remove our emotions from every decision because each decision needed the children’s best interests at heart.

When you can make decisions from an objective standpoint, you’ll find that you and your ex-partner are likely to be on the same page, or not far off.

If you and your ex don’t have the tools to communicate effectively and are ready to take steps to get there, consider third-party assistance. Many married couples are willing to go to couples therapy to repair their bond but separated parents often don’t consider seeking assistance to improve this evolved relationship. Divorce coaches, co-parenting consultants and traditional couple’s therapists can all help blended families thrive. Take the time to do your research and find an option that works best for your family.

When there are children involved, divorce isn’t an ending, it’s a transition.

Perhaps one parent isn’t ready to accept the co-parenting status and move forwards. That’s okay; all you can do is control your decisions. It doesn’t matter how small the first step to healing and thriving is; every step moves you forward – keep going. Maybe the only step you take today is to share this article with your struggling ex so they can understand that life can be different and still be beautiful.

Co-parenting doesn’t have to be a battle and as Krystal says, seeking outside intervention can help you and your ex move forwards to create a happy life for your children.

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