As I discussed last week, when parents who live together argue frequently about parenting it can be a sign that the relationship’s maintenance is poor. In the case of parents who don’t live together, frequent conflict with the other parent can be a sign that a peaceful co-existence, post separation or divorce, has not been established, or has been undone. For tips on how to establish this peace, please enter the search term “parenting through divorce” in the search bar above. Moreover, all of the tips from last week’s blog (i.e., Part 1) would be useful in this context as well.
Here are 10 additional suggestions:
- Agree that when kids are at each residence, and assuming that significant risk of harm has been ruled out, each parent at that residence is in charge. It’s often best for the non-residential birth parent to just stay out of it.
- Try to have a regular meeting with the other parent (e.g., coffee, lunch) where you review what’s going on with your kid(s). Open communication can stave off many kinds of problems.
- Do everything you can to stay out of court. In my clinical experience, everyone loses something when a gavel settles a parental dispute. (I’ve seen many instances when one parent was the official “winner” in court but didn’t factor in the ongoing costs of the other parent feeling resentful, anger or hurt secondary to the outcome.)
- When asking for the other parent to contribute financially to something, and referencing matters that aren’t a part of the initial divorce decree, try to make it a request that isn’t, and doesn’t sound even remotely like, a demand or a manipulation. (And, even when it’s in the decree, niceness goes a long way.)
- Try avoid getting into the “s/he was a jerk to me so I’m not going to be nice” spiral. High road life is hard enough without making residence there dependent on someone else’s choices.
- Avoid communicating when you are suffering from transient brain dysfunction (e.g., you’re angry, have consumed alcohol, are highly stressed). Moreover, avoid name-calling or bringing up old business. If in doubt about this, ask yourself how well these strategies have worked in the past.
- Point out what you’re grateful for and suggest that your kids do the same.
- Avoid letting your current significant other get into the mix, unless you’re very confident that s/he will only have a calming effect.
- Unless you have a fabulously cooperative relationship with the other parent, try to avoid using the other parent as a messenger of some third party’s important communication regarding your child. When teachers, physicians, coaches and so forth have something important to share regarding your child, try to be a part of the original communication; if you can’t be, ask if that third party would be willing to speak with you also. Triangles tend to be fertile soil for misunderstandings and conflict.
- Avoid texting when a communication has a chance of being misunderstood or causing tension. Pick up the phone or wait until the aforementioned coffee or lunch.
There are a bunch of experts available to help if this gets challenging. For a referral, click here.