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Setting Boundaries with a High Conflict Co-Parent

Feeling on edge with your co-parent?

When you are going through a separation or divorce and share parental responsibilities of a child(ren), growing new healthy family relationships can be overwhelming. The heightened stress between you and your ex-partner can easily derail your personal goals as well as trickle onto your relationship with your child(ren), leaving everyone feeling uneasy with no clear answers.

Establishing healthy boundaries and a collaborative parenting style can benefit the whole family when adjusting to a new family dynamic. Healthy boundaries are meant to provide an active line of communication showing respect for yourself and others to create a win-win outcome.

When it comes to co-parenting, boundaries enable each co-parent to listen and share ideas with the other co-parent in a respectful manner in regards to their child(ren). As you begin setting boundaries, it makes communicating much easier to form new healthy relationships while meeting everyone’s needs. Without boundaries, it will be a struggle to create a supportive structure for cooperative engagement.

Here Are Five Ways To Set Boundaries With A Co-Parent:

1. Commit To A Parenting Plan

When dealing with a high conflict co-parent, it may take a few disagreements and misunderstandings to formulate a parenting plan through mediation. A parenting plan is an inclusive arrangement voluntarily created between each co-parent that provides a schedule for shared parenting time and responsibilities.

It signifies where the children will be for the holidays, weekends, pick-up and drop-off times, best communication channels, and identified locations for household exchange, vacations, and summers. In addition, the plan will include significant decisions and financial obligations in regards to the childI(ren)’s health, education, religion, and extracurricular activities.

Once you have a parenting plan, sticking to the guidelines that you and your co-parent agree upon places your child(ren) first. It reduces the risks of conflict as you both are taking accountability for what works with all family members involved. If you or your co-parent are unable to commit to the plan, then it's important to communicate a change needs to be made that supports the health and development of your child(ren).

At any point, the plan is not being followed, try to go back to re-committing to the parenting plan. And if a power struggle begins to form, consider seeking professional help to develop a plan that works for everyone. Every now and then a parenting plan may need to be updated as the child(ren) become older and growth occurs amongst each family members.

2. Keep Your Personal Life Separate

Your personal life is no longer a shared topic of conversation with your co-parent. When you and your ex-partner made the decision to go separate ways, that’s when your intimate relationship came to an end. Keeping this boundary in place will help support your co-parenting roles and dissolve emotional power struggles that you may have experienced in the past.

It can be challenging, in the beginning, to not overshare certain information with your ex-partner as it can feel innate after spending so many years together. Even if your ex asks you to disclose private information about your new lifestyle, kindly decline by saying “I’m sorry but that is something we no longer share with each other.” If they bring it up again, that’s when you will want to use a discovery question to understand their purpose behind their request without using emotion.

You can simply say, “Please help me understand, how is my personal life relative to our co-parenting relationship?” By asking your co-parent to identify their needs then you can gather facts to dissolve the discussion. The more you stay outside the situation, the easier it is to respond versus react to their conflictual antics.

Focusing solely on your co-parenting relationship keeps emotions under control and enables you to focus on the safety and security of your child(ren). As difficult as it may be to separate your emotions, this is a healthier way to navigate the new family relationship. Also, consider separating connections online via social media platforms and redefining your once shared group of friends to keep conflict low.

3. Have A Businesslike Relationship

Communicate with your co-parent, as if you are talking with a colleague, your boss or even a client. When you avoid being friends, it prevents lines of communication and actions from being blurred, allowing for clarity amongst family members. It’s okay to be respectful, kind and cooperative in front of the child(ren) or when supporting them at school functions, but don’t be best friends, especially if you want to heal and have healthy relationships.

Keep in mind when communicating through discord, it’s not what you say, but how you say that can yield the outcome you want. Your tone of voice will account for 90% of the disagreement, where 10% of the conflict will be due to differences of perspective. The best way to prevent using a defensive tone of voice is to simply take care of your emotional distress prior to talking to your ex-partner. And, if you are having a bad day, it's probably wise not to engage with your ex until you have reached a calm state and can communicate without taking anything personal they might say to provoke you.

If you do need to communicate with your co-parent, using a respectful tone of voice with the least amount of words prevents less discord. The less information they have, the less ammunition they can use against you when your ex-partner is having a tough time.

This businesslike relationship helps you and your co-parent talk in a more formal manner which allows you to be direct and to the point. It prevents you and your co-parent from detouring into an emotional disagreement because too many things have been exchanged therefore giving firing arms to go to war with one another. At all costs, stick to the facts of the matter.

4. Establish A Communication Channel

Child(ren) should not be messengers when it comes to parenting time and responsibilities. Their brain is still developing and learning how to follow rules and act respectively in all situations. Children need to be able to enjoy their childhood and not be forced into adult conversations that discuss exchange locations or expenses.

And if it’s too difficult to talk to your co-parent there are several co-parenting platforms to help with this, as well as hiring a co-parenting coach, like ourselves, to support healthy co-parenting communication. A co-parenting coach can help you navigate how to have amicable conversations and find solutions to your differences in parenting styles.

Having similar parenting styles can help keep communication between you and your co-parent focused on the child(ren) and less on each parent. The conversations are directed to support what’s in the best interest of the child(ren) by creating a healthy solution that supports the child’s development.

5. Schedule Personal Self-Care And Self-Love Time

Having personal one-on-one time for yourself can help you be the best parent and co-parent. When you are taking care of yourself through physical exercise or engaging in meditation, you create a healthy relationship with yourself, emotionally and physically.

The relationship you have with yourself sets the tone for all your other relationships, including your co-parent. The more you are living accordingly to your truth, it's much easier to set boundaries and keep them. Boundaries allow you to own your worth and keep yourself at face value in front of your co-parent so they can’t knock you down regardless of how hard they try. You become a warrior, not a worrier when you know your place in this world.

While no co-parenting relationship will be free from discord, minimizing it as effectively as possible allows for everyone to move forward peacefully. The more stress-free you are as a parent, the healthier and happier your children will be. At the end of the day, the child(ren) is who needs to be protected and ensured with safety and security.

This post was featured on: Divorce In A Better Way


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