Coparenting with a high-conflict co-parent not only has its challenges for you as the parent but also for your children. The HCCP typically suffers from personality complexities that prevent them from being healthy parent. They are emotionally underdeveloped and stuck in a Me vs You mentality, even with their children. The high-conflict co-parent will attempt to turn the children against the healthy parent and a power game. They do this by projecting their fears and insecurities onto the children through control. They believe your relationship with the children is stronger than theirs and they are threatened by it. Since they typically don’t know how to build healthy relationships and are in a constant state of defense they will make their own children fear them. They do this so the children will be forced to comply with their “my way or the highway” mentality. They see the children as an extension of their ego and expect the children to adopt their beliefs robbing them of developing their inner voice, confidence, and self-worth. As a consequence, the HCCP blindly breaks their trust with their children by exerting control and force, rather than creating mutual respect. As a healthy parent, while this may be hard to hear, you can counter some of the emotional and psychological abuse that goes on in the other parent's home. You can do this by creating a safe space with your children on a daily basis so that if or when something happens they find to be questionable they will bring it to your attention without fearing judgment or criticism. Your children are wise beyond their years and know whom they can trust and whom they cannot. They learn this around the age of 2 to 3 years old. They also know which parent gives them unconditional love and which parent they have to lie to avoid getting punished for opposing beliefs. Fear and love cannot live under the same roof.
How to create trust and safety with your children:
1. Creating a safe space to bring their concerns
Creating a safe space means the children can talk to you about anything your co-parent, what's going on at school, or any experiences they may be going through as they develop. They can have deep conversations with you about life and trust you have their best interest in helping them make the best decisions for themselves without the fear of the unsafe parent finding out. To create a space, you’ll want to refrain from all judgment and listen to your kids. Help them process their own emotions and give advice from a big-picture perspective if they ask for it. To process their beliefs or emotions you’ll want to use discovery questions. This helps the child form their own beliefs and inner voice about uneasy topics that come up at the HCCP house or life in general.
What is your belief on (x)?
How does that make you feel?
How did you come up with your decision?
What makes that the best decision?
How will you move forward with your decision?
Do you need my assistance with anything?
2. Having integrity with your children
Children are more likely to watch what you do rather than listen. They observe behaviors and pick up on energy more quickly than adults. This is how they are constantly learning and processing information in their surroundings. They want to know your word is good as gold. Building trust means you pick them on time, show up when you say you will, keep your word on rewards or activities, and follow through with plans. Integrity equals trust. And, most of the time the HCCP won’t have integrity with their children because they twist and turn facts and events to benefit their desires in the moment without regard for how it impacts others.
3. Honoring your child’s feelings
Children, like adults, want to feel, heard, understood, and respected. Their feelings are just as valuable as anyone else, regardless of age. They generally have the purest and most honest feelings as they haven’t developed a defense mechanism yet. Ignoring a child’s feelings is ignoring their inner voice they are developing and how they will build their self-worth and honor it with others. When their feeling or voice are denied they develop unfavorable habits to please others. Honoring your child’s feelings and helping the emotionally regulate are some of the best gifts you can give your child.
4. Spending quality time together
While we understand you may be a busy parent trying to manage the house, work, etc spending 20 minutes a day of quality time with your children will mean the world to them. Whether it's reading a book, eating dinner together, going for a walk, playing a game, or having a snack bonding with your children create trust. Children need to know they are loved and that comes from the consistency of security and safety, as well as quality time.
If you’re struggling to build trust with your children because the weight of the HCCP is weighing on you or your children, don’t hesitate to reach out and get the support you need.