Are you having trouble communicating with your ex when it comes to your shared children?
When I work with parents, the goal is always for the parent to understand they can’t control the other parent. Understanding and respecting the fact that you don’t have any control might be hard, but it’s also a Godsend – especially if your ex is a high-conflict individual. Anything that could even seem in the realm of bossing them around won’t fly.
Need help navigating this tough time? Better understand these co-parenting tips for dealing with a high-conflict ex.
Co-Parenting Tips For Dealing With A High-Conflict Ex
No matter how much you try, you will never be able to control your co-parent or tell them what to do. Even in family court, the one parent who is always lecturing to the other is generally not received well.
Here are a few practical strategies you can start to implement today while dealing with your high-conflict ex.
Do you need help navigating the world of co-parenting? Contact The Bridge Across today to schedule a free consultation.
It’s Not Your Advice To Give
Stop giving your ex advice.
No advice. Nada. Zilch.
When we give advice to our ex, it is more often than not misinterpreted. Even if you have the very best of intentions, assume they will see it through a different lens that is not how you see it.
Unsolicited advice creates a whole host of problems for you. Look through your past texts and emails. Were you telling them what to do or offering advice? How did that turn out?
The problem is that when you offer advice, the person on the receiving end will likely feel like you are judging them. It’s human nature. Even if you don’t feel that way when offered advice, understand that most people don’t like it.
Moving forward, keep at the forefront of your mind: Unsolicited advice hardly ever goes well.
Kids Are Not Their Divorced Parents’ Messengers
Please don’t use your kids as messengers.
Even if the other parent is having the kids fill you in on details, don’t follow suit. Instead, send them an email like a grown up. For instance, ‘Here’s the information for the birthday party,” or “We’re going out of town on these dates.”
Co-parents need to be able to say things to each other for the wellbeing of the children involved. And it doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, you want a moderate approach.
Give information about what you’re doing before your kids have a chance to tell their other parents. And when you pass that information along directly to your co-parent, be respectful and courteous. But remember, you don’t have to provide everything. If you’re going on a trip, share only the basics – dates you’re going to be gone and general location.
Set An Example & Refrain From Name Calling
Avoid name-calling, admonishments, and judgments.
It happens in a lot of families, but that doesn’t make it okay or any less traumatizing to the children. In situations where parents let their trending feelings run wild, they may end up saying something like, “How dumb it was…” or “How stupid were they to do or say this or that.” Even if what the other parent did was mind-boggling, it is never okay to verbalize negative thoughts like this to your children.
Instead, think of it in the context of sharing information with your co-parent. For example, if your daughter had a rough time at school and you don’t think the other parent handled the situation well, don’t tell them that. Instead, say “Suzy was very upset this week about school. I told her it makes sense that she was upset. I’m really proud of her and told her that I’m always here for her.” This is leading by example and a much better route than telling the other parent, “You should have told her this…”
Remember That Children Are Parrots
You know how sometimes people who own parrots unintentionally teach their pets the wrong words? It can be embarrassing when they have guests over and the parrot starts screaming expletives. Consider your children to be like parrots. They listen, learn, and repeat – even when you don’t think they’re listening.
This is because children are unfiltered beings. Children will hear something their other parent said to them and often repeat it to you in a way that may not be accurate. Once you hear the repeated version from your children, you may be tempted to go to your ex and get upset for letting your shared child learn this information. And of course, this situation can also be reversed with your child sharing their misinterpretations of what you say.
If you need to vent to someone, make sure to keep it away from your children and ex. Instead, find a trusted friend or counselor who helps you to be calm. You can have feelings of upset and even rage, but it’s important to address those feelings without acting on them.
Are you in need of tools for handling your emotions while being the parent your child needs? The Bridge Across can help. Reach out today to schedule a consultation.
It’s All About BIFF
Bill Eddy’s BIFF response is especially helpful when communicating with a high-conflict ex or co-parent. Remember to keep things Brief, Informative, Friendly, and Firm. Write it down on a few sticky notes to have at your desk, in your car, or maybe even in your phone or purse. When high-conflict situations arise, BIFF it out and preserve your integrity for the sake of your children.
Focus On Yourself & Not Your Ex
It’s common for exes and co-parents to find themselves spinning their wheels, blaming their ex. While your ex may hold some blame, nothing will get better by using up your energy thinking about it. What you focus on only amplifies.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to focus on yourself. When your mind wanders towards blaming others, then it’s time to refocus. Think about what small changes you can make. And make small goals. These changes can be those 1% differences, but at least it’s moving you in the right direction.
This is especially true when kids transition back to your home after spending time with their other parent. If they seem anxious or on edge, don’t let that seep into your wellbeing. Transitions take time, no matter how many times they’ve been through it.
Rather than worrying about your child’s mood, make sure to take care of yourself so you can be there for them when they need you. Make sure you are exercising, sleeping, and also practicing being okay with your kids not being okay. This will give them the space to transition back into their normal routine. If you are defensive or anxious, this will only make your children more anxious and prolong the transition.
You Can Be A Successful Parent Despite Dealing With A High-Conflict Ex
Divorces, separations, transitions, and changes of all kinds affect everyone differently. If you’re dealing with a high-conflict ex, this will most likely make things more complicated. But it’s important to remember that the only person you can control is you.
The Bridge Across helps single parents, stepfamilies, co-parents, and everyone in between move forward with their lives. In just one visit, you’ll have new tools to help improve your family’s situation. To get started, schedule a consultation today.