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Formerly entitled Common Steps for Co-Parents, this FREE 50-page e-booklet features a pdf file (Adobe Acrobat Reader required) that outlines the key qualities of successful co-parent relationships. Taken directly from The Smart Stepfamily, this booklet is being used throughout the world (used with permission).

Download and print Parenting After Divorce, by Ron L. Deal

Learn How to Invite Cooperation

Some parents, after reading this material, can simply call their ex-spouse, share this e-booklet, and have a rational meeting to discuss how they might better implement the Guidelines for Co-Parents (see e-booklet). If that is within your power, by all means set up the meeting soon. Angry Associates and Fiery Foes (also discussed in the e-booklet), however, will fear a face-to-face meeting, believing it will erupt World War Three.

"You just don't understand. My ex is a jerk and won't listen to anything I say. If I email her a copy of your e-booklet she'll throw it away. I have no control over her attitude." True, you have no control over your ex's attitude, but you may have some influence. Years ago I wrote "An Open Letter to Parents Who Are Divorced" (contained in the e-booklet). It was designed to remind parents of their vital role and invite ex-spouses to consider how they might better cooperate. I had no idea how useful and productive the letter would be to angry, fiery co-parents.

Here's the plan. Email a copy of Parenting After Divorce to your ex-spouse with this written or verbal message: "I have found a helpful resource on stepfamily life and co-parenting. The author of the e-booklet recommended that I share this letter with you; otherwise, I wouldn't impose. I also want you to know that I've realized I have been violating a few of these principles and am committing myself to do better. Specifically, I've noticed that I am guilty of [provide two examples of mistakes you have made and what you intend to do next time. For example, you could say, "I shouldn't cut into your visitation time by bringing the kids over past five p.m. I'm sorry. My new goal is to be on time, every time. Also, I'm going to stop saying negative things about your new husband. I now see that that puts the kids in a tight spot."] I appreciate your time. [your name]"

There are, of course, no guarantees that sending the e-booklet will change anything; you are simply trying to open the door to change. You must not send a copy of the letter with a message like, "Boy, do you need to read this. You're a terrible co-parent and it's tearing up our kids." Obviously, this attempt to control your ex will re-ignite your battles and close the door to change. Furthermore, admit your mistakes without asking your ex to evaluate his or her parenting. The influence comes when you admit your failings with no strings attached. This quietly invites the other parent to consider his or her own behavior without pressure from you. Above all, keep the goal in mind, do your part, and pray that the Lord will soften your ex-spouse's heart.

Ron L. Deal is Founder & President of Smart Stepfamilies™ and Director of FamilyLife Blended® for FamilyLife®. He is a bestselling author, highly sought-after speaker, and therapist specializing in marriage enrichment and blended family education. Learn more here.