It can be extremely challenging to co-parent effectively in a high-conflict situation. It’s tough when you don’t want to expose your children to conflict, yet there doesn’t seem to be an alternative.
In addition, If you have a divorce situation that requires frequent court appearances, having done all you can to avoid conflict may help you in the courtroom
While every situation is different and some parenting situations are so high-conflict it doesn’t seem to matter what you do, there are some strategies to minimize the element of conflict in your co-parenting efforts.
Here are some co-parenting strategies to help avoid conflict.
1. Don’t Personalize the Problem
Personalizing the problems or issues with the other parent goes beyond taking their actions personally. When you personalize a problem, you are assigning a certain characteristic, trait, or intent to the other parent’s actions.
For example, your child has soccer practice during visitation time with your ex. But your ex claims she can’t take your child to practice. A personalized view of this problem goes something like, “She just doesn’t care about our child’s talents and interests; that’s why she won’t take our child to practice.”
In reality, your ex may have a perfectly legitimate reason or reasons for not being able to take your child to practice. Assuming your ex is a jerk each time she doesn’t follow through like you think she should heightens conflict and makes things personal that really aren’t.
2. Focus on the Issue, Not the Other Parent
Tying in with number 1 above, when there is a problem, make sure you focus on it as though it were a third party rather than on your ex. If your ex tends to show up early for exchanges and then complains that you’re not there or your child is not ready to go, address the problem – “Pick-up times don’t seem to be going as planned. What are your thoughts on making them more consistent?” – not the person – “You always show up too early! You need to come at the right time.”
3. Firm Boundaries
Having firm boundaries may seem at first like a cause of conflict, but boundaries can actually minimize them. Firm boundaries also set an example for your children, showing that you do have some control and say in what happens. Firm boundaries mingled with courtesy can go a long way toward avoiding conflict.
For example, if you have a set drop-off time and your ex tends to show up late, then inform her that you will be dropping your child off at such-and-such a time and after 15 minutes, you will leave and the exchange won’t happen. This helps avoid conflict because you no longer feel at the mercy of the other parent’s lax view of the clock.
4. Ask Your Ex for Solutions
Sometimes, asking your ex for his thoughts on a problem can result in some surprisingly agreeable solutions. If your ex is failing to arrive at exchanges on time, for instance, ask him if there are any difficulties in the exchange times you’ve agreed to, and if there is anything you can do to help facilitate timely exchanges.