CONFLICT IN CO-PARENTING: FROM CHAOS TO CALM

February 23rd

2023

Parents conflict

When you think about your co-parenting, is conflict the first thing that comes to mind? Conflict is an inevitable part of life, but when it dominates your relationship dynamic, it can threaten the well-being of your entire family. How does frequent fighting harm you, your parenting partner, and your child? And what can you do to change the temperature of your interactions for the better? In this week’s newsletter, we will uncover the secrets to reducing conflict in your co-parenting relationship. These tips will have you moving from chaos to calm without sacrificing your own beliefs.


The Gist

  • Nature guarantees that no two people are the same. We each see things in our own way, and this will inevitably lead to conflict between us.
  • You can decrease conflict in your co-parenting relationship through: self-reflection, self-regulation strategies, effective communication, acknowledgment of positivity and gratitude, compromise, and collaborative problem-solving. If you find yourself stuck, enlist the help of a trained, neutral third party such as a mental health professional.
  • Co-parenting requires both parties to make significant life decisions. These matters, along with lingering feelings from the break-up of the romantic relationship, can increase the likelihood and frequency of conflict.
  • High-conflict co-parenting relationships have been found to cause harm to the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of everyone in the family. Children especially may struggle with their behavior and may feel torn in their loyalty to both parents.

  • The Co-Parenting and Conflict Connection

    As long as you are a living breathing human in relationship with another living, breathing human, you’ll find yourself in conflict from time to time. We are all unique individuals viewing the world through our unique lenses, and by virtue of nature no two of us will ever see things exactly the same way. As a co-parent, you may find this to be especially true, being that some amount of arguing or incompatibility led you to separate from your parenting partner. Co-parenthood is full of challenging dilemmas, like custody agreements, visitation schedules, discipline matters, activities and expenses for your child, etc. Coming to a consensus on these matters while also managing your feelings toward your parenting partner is no easy task and can spawn frequent disagreements. Suddenly, you may find yourself in a high-conflict situation that blocks you from moving forward. Let’s dive in to the negative impacts of high-conflict co-parenting.

    Reasons of conflict

    Negative Impacts of High-Conflict Co-Parenting Relationships:

    Being in the throes of a high-conflict relationship doesn't feel good. Day-to-day, you may find yourself more irritable during everyday interactions, or have trouble concentrating, sleeping, or getting things done. But did you know that this stress can have much more extreme long-term consequences? A constant stream of fight-or-flight hormones can take its toll on your emotional and physical health. Recent studies have found that frequent arguing with close family members- such as former partners- can even decrease your life expectancy.

    Children experience consequences from their parents’ conflict as well. Whether separated or together, parents who minimize their fighting or at least use healthy ways of resolving their issues create a sense of safety for their children and teach them important skills. But when frequent or intense arguing takes over, children suffer. They may display more challenging behavior, perhaps emulating the negative actions of their parents. This can impact their current and future physical health, success in school, relationships, etc. They may defy both parents with equanimity, or show strong preference for one over the other as they struggle with their loyalty. RESOURCE: www.psychologytoday.com

    High-conflict co-parenting situations may impair the legal process for your parental agreement. The longer the case drags out in court, the more collateral damage it can cause for you, your parenting partner, and your child. Your finances and your emotions may bear the burden. It can also derail your informal parenting plan and day-to-day decision-making and you may feel that you’re at a constant standstill. It’s hard to establish clear, consistent rules, routines, and schedules between households if you can’t agree on them. The great amount of resources you’re both spending on arguing also inevitably takes time and attention away from your child.


    Stopping the Conflict Cycle

    Unlike childless former couples, you and your ex will be inextricably bound. You will need to work together in varying degrees throughout your child’s life. You have a choice: to continue this high level of conflict and suffer indefinitely, or change your approach for a better outcome. Here are some of Koh-Parenting’s best strategies for decreasing conflict in your co-parenting relationship; for more in-depth tips and tools, check out our training course, coming soon!:

    • Know yourself.
      The only person you can control is you, and engaging in self-reflection will help you to get to know yourself better. What is happening in your relationship with your co-parent that triggers you? What meaning are you assigning to your co-parent’s behavior? How is your past impacting your present interactions? How do you tend to handle stress? Strong feelings? Disagreements with others? All of these questions could illuminate behavior patterns that influence the level of conflict with your parenting partner.
    • Practice self-regulation techniques.
      When we are overcome by strong emotions, the thinking part of our brain goes offline. This sometimes leads us to act impulsively and blocks us from solving problems rationally. Thankfully, self-regulation is a skill like any other, that can be learned over time. Experiment with calming strategies such as deep breathing, meditation, journaling, yoga, mantras, etc. to see what works best for you and then incorporate them regularly (daily is best!) so that they become habits. There are many great resources available online or in apps that make this process easier.
    • Redefine the scope of your relationship with your co-parent.
      You are no longer romantic partners; has your perspective evolved to meet this status change, or are you still expecting the same from each other as you did previously? You will need to determine for yourselves where the lines are drawn for your new relationship. For example, what personal contact or topics are you comfortable with sharing now? Will you discuss future partners or dating experiences? Will you stay connected through social media? If you haven’t yet redefined your relationship and boundaries, then you may be more prone to conflict. If you’re looking for more guidance in how to navigate this, stay tuned for information on our training course!
    • Use “I” Statements and other non-accusatory verbiage.
      Effective communication is key to resolving conflict. You both have important, valid things to say to each other, but the way in which you say them can make all the difference in getting your point across. Be mindful of your tone and body language, trying as best you can to stay neutral. Furthermore, speak from your heart about your own perspective by using “I” statements. Starting your comments with “You” can come across as finger-pointing, or blaming, or chastising, and can elicit defensive responses or incite anger.
    • Exercise your “empathy” muscle.
      During moments of conflict or tension, we may become so locked into our own experiences that we can lose sight of other people’s perspectives. Your experience is important! But empathy toward your parenting partner is also important as well, and can even help you to reach a common ground more quickly. What would things look like from your co-parent’s point of view? Put yourself in his/her shoes, and narrate what you think he/she would be thinking and feeling. When you’re in the midst of a heated discussion, pause to echo his/her feelings and words. This demonstration of respect may encourage your parenting partner to reciprocate empathy back to you.
    • Engage in collaborative problem-solving.
      Your family’s well-being isn't threatened so much by the fact that you argue- because, as we’ve said, you’re human and this will happen- as much as it is by the way in which you argue. Done correctly, arguing can be a step toward progress. Shift away from negative behaviors like yelling or insulting during disagreements, as these lend themselves to the idea that one of you is “the problem.” Instead, try to view the issue at hand as the problem, a problem that can be solved. Use calm tones and brainstorm together whenever possible, especially if your child is around.
    • End conversations on a peaceful note.
      Ever heard the old adage, “Don’t go to bed angry?” Experts may differ in their opinion on the matter, but one thing we know for sure is that the way things end leaves a lasting memory. In high-conflict co-parenting relationships, feelings of hostility can linger as you move from one contentious conversation to the next. You can decrease this tension, even if the issue at hand remains unresolved, by closing out your conversation on a peaceful note. For example, let’s say you’re arguing about your child’s visitation schedule and haven't come to an agreement yet. Before you break apart from the discussion, you could say something like, “Thanks for talking this through with me. I know that this is a sensitive subject for us but I have faith we will get this sorted out.” This simple step is impactful for both of you and for your child; it allows you to walk away from the conversation less stressed and also reassures your child that everything will work out.
    • Bring some positive into the equation.
      It may seem contradictory, but seeking the positives in your relationship with your co-parent- even if it’s a reach- can begin to drain out some negativity. Imagine if you took a time-out from arguing and acknowledged something that’s going well for you both; what would that feel like? A compliment or expression of gratitude toward your parenting partner could break up some of the tension and reset the conflict cycle.
    • Compromise when and where you can.
      List the major points of contention between you both, and then order them by their importance to you. Is it possible that you’ve been holding on to certain things out of anger and not because they truly matter? It’s possible that some issues mean more to your parenting partner than to you, and vice versa. These could be good areas to offer a compromise.

    Children Watching Their Parents Quarreling at Home  

    Fighting for peace. Conflict in co-parenting may be natural, but it doesn’t have to be a life sentence. It’s not only entirely possible to get along better, but necessary for the well-being of your entire family. We hope these tips help you shift from fighting against each other to fighting for each other, unified in your quest for a harmonious and healthy relationship.

     
     

    Still Struggling? Koh-Parenting Can Help!

    Check out our learning guides that can help you on your co-parenting journey.

    Koh-Parenting Learning Guides
     

    By Koh-Parenting Services LLC


    One Comment

    1. […] To learn more about the impact of conflict on Co- parenting, check out our previous newsletter on the topic: Conflict in Co-Parenting: From Chaos to Calm […]

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