Fights and co-parenting: a perspective from the communications coach

co-parentingChildren can become a point of contention and disagreement in even the most amicable of divorces. As a communications coach, I see these fights and wonder how two people who say they want the best for their children can have such vastly different ideas about what that “best” looks like. Co-parenting is hard. Every divorce is unique, but there are some common mistakes that I see parents make over and over. Can you catch yourself before you walk down the wrong path?

Mistake # 1: Treating your child as a weapon

Divorce is fraught with emotion, and there are times when parents with the best of intentions can use the child as a means of getting back at their partners. Some turn overly argumentative when the other parent requests a change in overnight stay plans. Others share emotional details of the divorce with the child to turn him or her against the other parent. The end goal, intentional or not, is to hurt the other parent. What most don’t realize is that the process hurts the child just as much.

Mistake # 2: Turning your child into a go-between

If divorcing couples were great at communicating through frustration, anger and disappointment, they would probably remain married. Unfortunately, old dysfunctional communication patterns persist through the divorce process. That includes turning children into messengers. I understand that there are times during the divorce when parents want nothing to do with each other. However, that is not a reason to put your child in the middle.

Mistake # 3: Not communicating with the other parent

Shut-down is a common side effect of participating in difficult discussions that don’t always go your way. Some of my clients experience it as an overwhelming desire to hole up and never speak to the other parent again. In reality, the only way to maintain a constructive co-parenting arrangement is to keep talking. There will be schedules to coordinate, medical appointment to make, sports and homework and shared expenses. Parents who stop talking to each other during the divorce have a difficult time picking it back up after the divorce is over.

How can you avoid these co-parenting mistakes?

First of all, know your triggers. It might be money, late arrival for pick-up or a disagreement over approach to discipline. Being aware about what sets you off can go a long ways towards being able to take a deep breath and manage your response.

Next, recruit a support team that will help you manage tough conversations and keep you accountable. Very few people are trained in keeping a calm mind and a focus on goals when discussions turn heated, so consider working with a communications or divorce coach to get you through this.

Finally, remember that no matter what you do, divorce will affect your kids. There are certain aspects of the divorce that parents cannot control. However, it is wise to take control where you can. It is up to you to manage the degree to which your separation hurts your children. A team of professionally trained divorce specialists can help. If you would like to explore what a collaborative divorce team can do for your family, reach out to Brazos Valley Collaborative Divorce Alliance. We are here to help you manage difficult conversations and create the foundation for what’s next for you and your children.

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