Summer co-parenting can be challenging; when the temperature gets hotter, here’s how to stay cool.
As the summer heats up, sometimes co-parenting can be emotionally charged for all parties, so it can be easy to let anger get the best of you. While being angry is acceptable and natural and you may have no control over how you perceive the actions of your co-parent, you are most certainly responsible for how you respond. Here is a quick list of suggestions on how to deal with a heated situation.
1. Focus on what’s important — your children. Keep discussions child-focused, brief, and professional. Co-parents do not have to address every single issue that comes along.
2. Avoid being reactive. Do not jump to conclusions or overreact to the other parent’s behaviors. If you feel tensions rising in the middle of a conversation, you can always say, “I need a little more time to think about this. Let’s set up another time to talk about it more.”
3. Take a “time out.” Before you say something you might regret, ask yourself the following questions: “What is it about the situation that makes me angry?” “What is really going on here?” “What am I reacting to?” “Where do I stand on this?” and “What are the things I will and will not do?”
4. Be respectful, especially in front of the children. Avoid lecturing, belittling, blaming, interrogating, or arguing with your co-parent especially in front of the children and also through texts, emails and phone calls.
5. Request, do not demand. Let the other person know specifically what you desire. Using the words “I want or I need you to” could be considered demands. But, also, request rather than assume that people will anticipate your needs or do things that you have not requested.
6. Accept that your co-parent may do things differently in their homes. Recognize that there are many ways of appropriate parenting. Fighting about who is the better parent is a pointless zero-sum battle that ultimately takes time away from parenting. Different perspectives are just that — different. They are not competing ideologies.
7. Don’t spin your wheels participating in arguments that go nowhere. Trying to convince others of the “rightness” of your position is futile. If the other parent is not hearing you, simply say, “I understand that you disagree, we see the problem differently.” It’s a cliche, but in many cases you will have to agree to disagree and move on.
8. Be reasonable. Provide the other parent with serviceable deadlines and due dates for important matters. Scheduling conflicts happen in any professional or personal relationship, co-parenting is no different. Try not to view such a conflict as a slight against you. Reschedule and try again.
9. You are not “the boss” of the other parent. Don’t tell another person what she or he should think or do. When you do this, you are inviting the other parent to respond in an immature manner. This is controlling behavior and is not appropriate for any relationship, much less co-parenting.
10. Take responsibility for your behavior. Apologize if you have wronged the other parent. You are your children’s role model. Remember to remain focused on raising your children and becoming a better co-parent yourself.
About the author: Carol Mapp is a Collaborative Divorce Texas member and a licensed clinical social worker with Integrated Healthworks in Arlington.