Parenting Strategies During High-Conflict Divorce
Communicating effectively with your Ex during a high conflict divorce is almost impossible. When speaking with your Ex about the children during a high conflict divorce, communication is often just as bad, if not worse.
When you begin the divorce process you will hear the term co-parenting over and over. The definition of co-parenting is that both parents communicate openly and support one another’s decisions while also fostering the children’s relationship with the other parent. This is how things work in a perfect world. High-conflict divorce is not perfect world. In the context of this kind of divorce a new strategy has emerged: Parallel parenting.
Parallel parenting allows parents to co-parent by having limited contact with each other. At the same time, this situation allows both parents to be fully connected to their children. Parallel parenting can minimize the damaging effects to kids during a high conflict divorce. It reduces the amount of interaction and controls the type of interaction between parents. Studies show that it is the conflict in divorce that causes psychological harm to kids, not the divorce itself.
There should be a clear message to the kids that it is important to have both of their parents in their lives. Children can feel an overwhelming sense of guilt about expressing love for one parent in front of the other parent. Kids are often worried about their parents feelings when it is the parents that should be putting their children's feelings at the forefront of every decision and interaction. So what does parallel parenting look like exactly?
--Communication between parents must be business-like and void of emotion. Keep emails or texts factual, brief and direct while still being cordial.
--Private life is private. The details of your private life should not only kept to yourself, parents should never ask the kids about the other parent's private life.
--Communications or chnages in schedule, etc. should be in writing. Parenting apps can also help. There are a number of apps that can help with scheduling, communicating, planning and managing shared expenses. Here is a list of some of the most popular apps: CoParently, 2Houses, Our Family Wizard, The Family Core.
--Only you should communicate with the other parent when a needs arises. Never ask the children to do the communicating for you.
--Create a parenting plan. Even if the divorce is still in process, making decisions now about how much time the children will spend with each parent, who will pay for what, holiday schedules, sporting events, etc are all very important details to work out. This way each parent has a chance to start planning their time with the children, which will make the transition easier for the kids.
In the beginning stages of the divorce when you are physically and emotionally separating, things can get intense. Children are more sensitive to this than anyone. Take a deep breath and power through to make some of these fundamental decisions early so that the kids can be shielded from the conflict as much as possible. These initial decisions don’t have to be permanent but they can start to ease your family into a rhythm for how things will be in the future.
Therapy. If at all possible, get a therapist for yourself and a therapist for your kids. Even with the best of intensions you can be blinded by your perspective as a parent and may not be able to fully understand what your children are thinking or feeling. Getting outside, professional help will allow you to navigate through this difficult time with more success.
Parallel parenting doesn’t have to be permanent. Parallel parenting may be a good way to ease into co-parenting when things are contentious in the beginning stages of divorce. Often, once parallel parenting is in place, the situation can evolve and as things calm down parents can move into a more cooperative relationship with more open communication.