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Top 7 Coercion Tactics The High-Conflict Co-Parent Will Use During the Holidays

coercion tactics

The holiday season is supposed to be a time of joy, togetherness, and celebration. However, for individuals dealing with a high-conflict co-parent, it can be a time of increased stress, manipulation, and emotional turmoil. The HCCP often exploits the holidays to further their agenda and to control you or to weaponize the children against you.

Here are the top seven coercion tactics used during the holidays by the HCCP and how to respond to them effectively:

1. Playing the Victim

The HCCP is a master at playing the victim card. They may fabricate sob stories or invent crises to manipulate their co-parent into changing holiday plans. This tactic is designed to elicit guilt, making the co-parent feel responsible for their supposed suffering.

How to Respond: Maintain clear boundaries and stick to your holiday schedule in the parenting plan. Don't let guilt or false narratives sway your decisions.

2. Last-Minute Changes to Pick-up and Drop-off

The HCCP loves to disrupt carefully made holiday plans with sudden, unexplained changes of when they are picking up the kids or dropping them off. They might insist on altering visitation schedules or making impromptu demands to ruin your parenting time or cause you to miss important plans.

How to Respond: Establish a detailed holiday plan in advance and communicate it clearly in writing for pick-up and drop-off times. If the HCCP attempts to change things last minute, be firm and remind them of the agreed-upon plan in writing or refer to the parenting plan order. On average 15-minute window is the acceptable time frame for being late to pick-up and drop-offs.

3. Using Children as Pawns

The HCCP may involve children in their manipulative tactics by making requests that infringe on your time with the kids. They might pressure the children to convey their wishes for a special event or act as messengers to guilt you into giving up your time and to go with the HCCP to this special holiday event.

How to Respond: Encourage open communication with your children and let them know it's okay to express their feelings. Reassure them that the holiday plans are communicated between parents to make a decision.

4. Withhold Parent-Child Calls:

The HCCP often dismisses parent-child calls on the holiday to hurt you. They'll claim that they never agreed to a phone call or will intentionally delay the call until the last minute and make you wait all day.

How to Respond: Keep a written record of all agreements and conversations. Outline parent-child call schedules in your parenting plan. Or establish the time of call in advance. Give your co-parent two options that work for you and let them choose the time since they love to be in control.

coercion tactics

5. File False Court Reports:

Some HCCP love to use the court system to their advantage right before the holiday. They will file false reports or changes to the parenting time schedule on a Friday before the court is closed only to cause distress in an attempt to ruin your holiday.

How to Respond: Enjoy your holiday to the fullest! Be happy and know that this is just a tactic of theirs. Logically lay out a plan on how you will want to respond and provide documentation to legal counsel or hire a coach to help you strategize your case. Sign up for a strategy call here.

6. Gift-Giving as Manipulation

The HCCP might use extravagant gifts or promises of gifts to one-up you over the holidays. Due to their deep-rooted insecurities, they may say they want to go in half for a gift only to leave you with the bill and take credit, they may say they are getting a lesser gift and turn around to outdo you once they know what you’re getting the kids. They are in competition with you because they know the kids love you and this creates jealousy for them.

How to Respond: Teach your children about the value of love and time spent together rather than material possessions. Maintain your own holiday traditions and gift-giving practices and keep your gifts private. Do not agree to go in on a gift-giving together.

7. Make Threats To Call Authorities

The HCCP are experts at using emotional pressure to get their way. They may induce guilt, fear, or anger to make you comply with their wishes. They will even go to the extreme of calling the police in order to get their way even if they show up hours late for parenting time.

How to Respond: Recognize when you're being emotionally manipulated and stand firm in your boundaries. Have your parenting plan on hand and make sure you have all holiday plans in writing if they go this route.

Dealing with a high-conflict co-parent during the holidays can be challenging, but it's crucial to remain strong in your boundaries. Recognize these coercion tactics and strategies to protect yourself and your children from emotional manipulation. If needed seek our support, and remember that your well-being and that of your children are a top priority. By maintaining your composure and setting clear boundaries, you can navigate the holiday season with more peace and resilience. Let’s take back your power!


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