If you and your co-parent are high conflict, I guarantee your children know it and suffer for it. You cannot control how your co-parent behaves, but you can ensure you are not contributing to your children’s suffering. Here are five simple ways:
1. Don’t have co-parent conversations (in-person, phone, email or text), in the presence (or within earshot) of your child. This reduces the risk of the children feeling like your fight is their fault (after all, the fight seems to always include something about them).
2. Don’t say negative things about the other parent (or use negative body language) when talking to your child. It is horrible for them to think if you hate their other parent, and they are part of that person, that you might hate part of them.
3. Don’t ask children to deliver messages (or paperwork) to the other parent. When they have to endure the negative reaction, it feels like a no-win situation. It only teaches them to lie or “forget” to avoid the conflict (a bad relationship skill to teach them).
4. Don’t plan events with your children on the other parent’s time. Worse yet, don’t get the kids excited about it before checking with your co-parent. If that parent says “no”, you set your kids up for thinking their other parent is the bad guy, harming their relationship along the way.
5. Don’t cause your children to feel bad if they say positive things about your co-parent and/or their time with them. They deserve to enjoy a relationship with their other parent, even if you couldn’t. Let them be kids and form their own opinions about both of you. You will probably be surprised about what they discover on their own without your input.
Keep in mind, if kids need to know something about either of you, they will find out all on their own. If they don’t, maybe they never needed to know.
For more helpful advice about co-parenting, listen at www.CPDilemmas.com, or wherever you get your podcasts.