Q: I've been divorced for four years. My relationship with my ex '- father of my eight- and six-year-old boys '- had been rocky but has recently taken a turn for the better. It could be because he recently remarried. Now that we get along, should I buy him a Father's Day present? For good times' sake?
A: Before I come right out with the yes or no, let's look at why you may be getting along better all of a sudden. Your ex just remarried. Sometimes this causes even bigger problems in the coparenting communication because of jealousy on the part of the new wife, but there are times, like you're experiencing, when remarriage actually reduces the stress of interaction between the divorced parents and things begin to even out. It sounds like you are one of the lucky ones, and because of this, I suggest you do everything in your power to meet and graciously communicate with your ex's new wife. She, after all, will be helping to coparent your boys when they are at their dad's home '- and it will be easier on all concerned if all the parent figures are on the same page.
Most couples recognize the importance of presenting the other parent positively if they are married to each other, but few understand how important it is to continue to present the other parent positively once they are divorced. This is where many question my sanity. "You have got to be kidding," a client once said. "I'd feel stupid carrying on a cordial conversation with my ex."
Divorced parents must remember two very important points. First, every move they make, even after divorce, demonstrates to their children how they should treat or be treated in a relationship. Second, children continue to love both Mom and Dad even after they are no longer together as a couple. As their parents interact, their behavior will leave an impression: "This is the way men and women interact," or "This is the way I will treat my future husband or wife." That's why it's so important that divorced parents go out of their way to remain cordial toward each other in front of their children. Your kids will model your behavior in their future relationships.