Co-parenting after domestic violence is a sensitive, difficult subject, made even more so because many people don’t realize that often the father who is co-parenting after domestic violence was the domestic violence victim. This is because men very rarely report being abused by the mother of their children, even though it happens nearly as often as the other way around. Here are a few top guidelines that can prepare an abused father for a successful co-parenting relationship.
Co-parenting After Domestic Violence Starts With Acceptance
Despite the magnitude of the hurt, resentment, and even fear you may feel towards your ex-spouse, the child that you had with them needs to receive love and support from both of you. Accepting that you will still need to be in touch with your ex, and understanding that you may need to set your personal feelings aside for the sake of the kids, is a great starting point for a smooth co-parenting journey. Since you’re only human, it may be hard to manage deep negative emotions, but you will have to find ways of separating personal feelings from things that concern your child. This isn’t to say you should ignore those feeling, but find a way of dealing with them so that they have minimal impact on your co-parenting relationship, such as seeing a therapist to help you work through those feelings.
Know How to Manage Communications and Exchanges
It can be hard to communicate effectively with an ex who abused you in the past, especially if they haven’t changed or at least addressed their anger issues. But there are a few basics of careful communication that can help you engage in constructive discussions without setting them off. A good example is using ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ when discussing a matter concerning your child. You should also avoid using any form of blaming language when co-parenting after domestic violence because it could potentially make them get defensive. Praising then whenever they do something commendable regarding the kids can also work well, although it may not sit well with your ego at times. Reminding yourself that you are doing this for the wellbeing of your kids can help destress you when you start to feel overwhelmed by negative feelings.
When meeting in person, such as to hand the kids off from one co-parent to the other, try to spend the shortest time possible in their presence in order to reduce the risk of getting into a potentially harmful argument, even more so because your child is there. Lastly, if your child’s mother violates the co-parenting agreement, remain calm and avoid confronting her directly. Instead ask your attorney to communicate with them about the issue on your behalf, or to report it to the court.
Self-care Is as Important As Caring for the Kids
Society often assumes that men are the abusers in a relationship, and people often show little compassion or concern for men who have been abused, so much that many times you may find that you only have yourself on whom to rely to deal with these feelings. Yet you have to move through and find a healthy outlet for all of the negative feelings, both in order to protect your own health and to put yourself in a better position for showing love to and caring for your child.
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This means that self-care is as important as taking care of your child. After all, your child needs the presence of the best version of their dad, not a troubled soul taking care of them. Here are a few ways for taking care of yourself when you’re co-parenting after domestic violence.
- Arrange to do in-person exchanges in a safe place, like a public area
- Establish clear boundaries right from the start, knowing what you can and can’t tolerate
- Get support from neutral persons whenever the need arises
- To reduce the likelihood of being manipulated, make sure everything is set out clearly in the co-parenting plan. There should be clear-cut rules for birthdays and other key holidays, such as Christmas, Hanukkah, and Eid
- Consider being part of a community support group where you can share experiences and frustrations as you discuss possible solutions
Taking care of yourself can be challenging when you have to interact with your abusive ex on a regular basis, but with a good support system in place it is possible. It helps to keep in mind that taking care of your mental stability is key to supporting and showering your child with love!
Co-parenting after domestic violence is no easy feat, but the above tips may help make it easier for you. However hard it may seem, you can do it, especially if you have the right motivations and support system. But even when things appear to be working smoothly, don’t forget to keep track of mom’s behavior, and be sure to document everything (out of mom’s view though) because these records may be useful in the event that you end up needing to go to court.
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