Co-parent conflict is often about parents feeling frustrated by their personal differences. Chances are those existed prior to the relationship break-up, but they become more prominent as you try to navigate those differences after divorce or separation. A parent might be chronically late for parenting time transitions, or won’t let your child do normal kid things, or forget to communicate important information about the children, etc. These minor frustrations often become major ones and end up as the stuff contempt and modification cases are made of. Although parents have a right to make a case about every inconsistency or failure of their co-parent relationship, it tends to cost way more than it’s worth in time, emotion and money.
One of the concepts I try to teach co-parents is to anticipate who you already know the other parent to be and then always have a Plan B of your own to accommodate your children’s needs. If you know the other parent will be late picking up the kids (as usual), but you have plans, don’t stress and be surprised by the lateness. Instead, always have a babysitter on call who can come over. Then inform your co-parent that if they are late, he/she has to pay the babysitter at the pick up. Then you can go on your way without stress. If your co-parent refuses to let your child go to their friend’s birthday party on his/her time, offer to have a special sleepover at your house for that friend. If you’re not getting information about school, activities, or medical appointments from your co-parent, go around them and get it directly from the source.
There is always a creative way to anticipate trouble and make it okay on your end, so you’re not constantly frustrated and disappointed. Many times, the other parent does these things because they know it upsets you and that’s part of the motivation to do them! If you no longer get upset, it disempowers them when they can no longer have that kind of control over your life. Don’t criticize, rant and rave, or put them on notice. Those tactics rarely work. Just do what is needed at every turn.
Is it fair that you have to be the better person or the one who always has to accommodate for the kids’ sake? Of course not. But knowing you can’t change another person and doing what you can to have some peace is way worth the sacrifice for both you and your kids. Try it. It might change your perspective…and your life.