The Best Advice We’ve Ever Heard for How to Co-Parent with Your Ex

Even for the consciously uncoupled, co-parenting can be complicated at best, heartbreaking at worst. Here, hard truths and hard-won wisdom from the celebrities, divorce lawyers and other experts who understand the issues—and aren’t shy about sounding off. 

josh lucas jessica ciencin henriquez and son noah rev lucas
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1. Acknowledge That It's Not Going To Be Easy

Jessica Ciencin-Henriquez, writer

“For years, I’ve been waiting for someone to come clean about co-parenting. Celebrities and social media would have us believe it’s easy, even enjoyable, and I’m tired of contributing to that narrative. It’s not true. As a co-parent and frequent social media over-sharer, I’m guilty of perpetuating the notion that anyone can seamlessly transition from a couple to co-parents with grace, dignity and ease. Sure. There have been happy moments in my co-parenting journey where that felt true, but those moments are not the majority of my experience. Shared family vacations and weekly dinner dates didn’t happen without endless negotiations and blurred lines along the way. So, here we go, I’ll say the thing that no one else wants to say: Co-parenting sucks…

After five years, the conclusion I’ve come to is that there’s nothing natural about this…There is nothing natural about the fact that my son will grow half his height while I’m not watching or that he’ll tuck half of his baby teeth under the pillow at a different home…Successfully sharing the person who brings you the most joy with the person who brings you the most pain is nothing short of a miracle.” - Ciencin Henriquez shares a son, Noah, 6, with ex-husband, actor Josh Lucas

drew barrymore with her daughter frankie
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2. Set An Intention As A Parent

Drew Barrymore

“I so wanted to raise kids in this ultra-traditional way and do everything so the polar opposite of my experience. It really is about the tone you set. And you can talk until you’re blue in the face, but kids watch what you do every single day of your life, all day long, and that behavior and that example and that love and community and honesty is what’s making everything feel safe for my kids. That’s really the intention I had as a parent was, ‘How do my kids have this incredible sense of freedom inside their heart?’ ‘Cause they know I’ve got them and their dad’s got them… And we do it in a way that I think a lot of other people are probably doing it too. And sometimes, again, the road is different than what you try to make it or what you expected and you just figure it out and you figure it out with grace.” - Barrymore shares daughters Olive, 5, and Frankie, 4 with ex-husband Will Kopelman

3. And Put Your Anger on Ice

Wendy Paris, author of Splitopia: Dispatches from Today's Divorce and How to Part Well

Don't immediately start texting or emailing when your ex does something that upsets you, Paris advises: "I keep a running list of grievances on my computer, and by the time I talk to my ex, most of them no longer seem important enough to bring up." - Paris and her young son live several blocks away from her ex-husband, with whom she amicably co-parents


jennifer garner and her daughter
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4. See Your Ex From Your Child’s Point-of-view

Jennifer Garner

“I cannot let anger or hurt be my engine. I need to move with the big picture always on my mind, and the kids first and foremost…The main thing is these kids—and we’re completely in line with what we hope for them. Sure, I lost the dream of dancing with my husband at my daughter’s wedding. But you should see their faces when he walks through the door. And if you see your kids love someone so purely and wholly, then you’re going to be friends with that person."  - Garner co-parents kids Violet, 12, Seraphina, 9, and Samuel, 6, with ex Ben Affleck 

angelina jolie and her brood leaving the louvre
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5. Make An Effort To Focus On The Positive

Laura Wasser, celebrity divorce attorney to Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Garner, and Ryan Reynolds

Wasser encourages divorcing couples to think about the moments they deeply loved each other, like when they got engaged or welcomed their first baby. "Try to get back to [that time] and realize that there is something good that did come out of your relationship. Focus on that and try to find a way forward. It's so much better for your emotional health to be able to do it that way." - Wasser, CEO of online divorce service It’s Over Easy, is also a divorced mother 


jennifer lopez and her twin children
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6. But Remember That It’s Going To Be Hard Work

Jennifer Lopez

“When my marriage ended, it was not easy to find forgiveness. It wasn’t the dream that I had hoped for, and it would have been easier to fan the flames of resentment, disappointment, and anger. But Marc is the father of my children, and that’s never going away. So, I have to work to make things right. And that is, by far, the hardest work I do.” - Lopez co-parents twins Max and Emme, 10, with ex-husband Marc Anthony

7. Allow Your Child To Love And Be Loved By Your Ex

Rosalind Sedacca, divorce and parenting coach

“Life is far easier for divorced parents who give their children these two precious gifts: the freedom to love both parents and the freedom to feel loved by both parents as well.

8. Don't Make It A Competition

Maren Cardillo, attorney and divorce mediator

“The best advice I can give to divorcing couples is to have realistic expectations about how hard co-parenting can be. There’s a therapy book that I often reference, called Ten Days to Self-Esteem by Dr. David D. Burns, in which he compares healthy constructive anger with unhealthy destructive anger. With unhealthy anger, ‘You believe the other person is despicable and deserving of punishment. You appear condescending or disrespectful.’ With healthy anger, ‘You convey a spirit of respect for the other person, even though you might feel quite angry with him or her.’ With unhealthy anger, ‘You feel like you’re in a battle or a competition. If one person wins, you feel that the other one will be a loser.’ With healthy anger, ‘You look for a solution where you can both win and nobody has to lose.’ This applies so much to my clients because sometimes their anger prevents them from being reasonable or being able to hear the other person's perspective, which is really how they can more productively compromise.”

gwyneth paltrow and her kids leaving a store
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9. Learn To Create A New Family Dynamic

Gwyneth Paltrow

“Well, the ideal is to stay married. But if you can't stay married, wouldn't the ideal be that you could still be a family and you could put aside your own stuff long enough to explore—what is this new family and who am I in it? And Chris is a great ex-husband 'cause he's a very, very willing partner in how to do that. We're constantly putting aside our own stuff and trying to reimagine something that we don't personally have an example for…If you have children together, number one is a dedication to what's best for the kids. We put a lot of thought into how to do it so that the damage would be minimized. We spend a lot of time together. He's been away for two weeks [promoting his album]. Last night he got in at midnight and slept here so he could surprise the kids in the morning, we could all have breakfast, and he could take them to school. So…we're not living together, but he's more than welcome to be with us whenever he wants. And vice versa: I sleep in his house in Malibu a lot with the kids. We'll have a weekend all together; holidays, we're together. We're still very much a family, even though we don't have a romantic relationship. He's like my brother.” - Paltrow co-parentsdaughter Apple, 14, and son Moses, 12, with ex-husband Chris Martin