Do you feel cut out of your children’s lives?
When parents decide to separate, the goal should be to co-parent in order for their children to maintain a great relationship with both parents. This may be impossible, however, when one parent interferes in their children’s relationship with the other. What occurs here is parental alienation, but it is important that the alienated parent acts quickly to remain in their children’s lives.
Your ex-partner may be alienating you because they are angry or vengeful. Because of this, they use your children as a weapon or bargaining chip in order to control and punish you.
However, there are ways around this. You can communicate with your ex in ways that avoid hurting your relationship with your children.
Here Are Ways To Co-Parent With A Difficult Co-parent:
Creating a co-parenting plan sets boundaries that make it easier to deal with an uncooperative ex. If you have this agreement on hand, you will have everything in writing. This way, if your ex attempts to demand time or withhold your children, the guidelines are formally enforced through a binding agreement.
This plan should include visitation schedules for holidays and on a week by week basis as well. You can also include specific times that your ex can call your children during your parenting time. It is important to make this agreement as detailed as possible so that no gray areas can be taken advantage of.
Recognize that your ex is alienating you to establish dominance. You can remove this power dynamic by changing the way you respond to their attacks.
When faced with attacks from your ex, try:
Ignore Or Shut Down Verbal Abuse
Rather than responding to attacks, choose to stay outside of it. Your ex is acting this way to get a reaction out of you. If you stay completely outside of the attack, you can focus on the well-being of your children, rather than your ex’s ego.
Your ex feeds on the reactions they get out of you - good or bad. When you do not give in to their abuse or threats, it makes it easier to co-parent. You could also suggest solely communicating via email. This way, you will have time to compose yourself before you respond to demands and other communications.
If you feel the urge to shut it down versus ignore, you can simply respond with "I'm sorry you feel that way" or "Thank you for sharing your opinion". And, then change the subject back to being focused on the children.
Communicate Solely About Your Children (And Without Emotion)
This will help you differentiate between a personal attack and an actual co-parenting conflict. For example, suppose your ex says:
“You’re a terrible mother and a terrible person. It’s no wonder why your kids hate you and don’t want to see you.”
There is no reason to respond to this because it has nothing to do with co-parenting. Even though the attack is hurtful, engaging with this abuse does not benefit your children at all. As time goes on, these attacks will have less impact on you less you engage. What is important is that your children’s needs are met. Shifting attention away from personal attacks and only focusing on what is actually important will ultimately strengthen your relationship with your children.
As difficult as it is when communicating, try to keep emotions out of the conflict. It may be helpful to treat the co-parenting relationship like a job. Understand that you do not have to agree on everything, but you do have to work together.
Remind yourself that your ex is acting in this way because they want to have power over you. You can make them feel like they have this power by using respectful communication and giving them options.
Suppose your ex does not answer your phone call at the agreed upon time. Try following up with them in this way:
We agreed to call at (time). Can you help me understand how come I was unable to reach (child’s name)? Out of respect for your time, I would like to set up a day where I can call (child’s name). Would Monday or Wednesday at 6pm or 7pm work for you?
If your ex needs to feel like they are in control of the situation, giving them options that both work for you but allowing them to choose, they are more likely to oblige.
Refer To Your Co-Parenting Agreement
Attacks are not just verbal, but they are severely destructive when the children become the co-parent's choice of weapon. This can come in the form of withholding children, disregarding visitation schedules, or even not answering phone calls. This is where your co-parenting plan will come in handy.
The plan should have guidelines that specify when each parent has time with the children while also giving the children consistency as they alternate between each parent’s home. When conflict arises, your plan will be a great resource. For example, if your ex refuses to drop your children off at the correct time, you can respond by referring back to the facts of your plan.
Document The Facts
Commit to only communicating via text or email. This will develop a trail of communication if you have to go to court. Keep a log of things that you are important and that impacts the child's well-being and development. This may include when your ex does not comply with your co-parenting plan or is suspected of abuse or neglect.
Anything that does not feel right or puts your children at risk should be documented if you have to take legal action later.
Being alienated by your co-parent can be extremely hurtful and exhausting to deal with. We recommend approaching the co-parenting relationship in ways that maintain your relationship with your children, yet avoid an ego battle with your ex. Rather than feeding into your ex’s need for power, try using these tips to keep the peace between you, your ex, and your children.