Co-parenting can be a challenging journey on its own, but when one or both parents exhibit challenging behaviours, it can turn into an even more tumultuous ride. In this article, we’ll delve into the concept of co-parenting with difficult parents, understanding who a difficult parent is, what co-parenting entails, and some strategies to make the process smoother for everyone involved.
Who is a Difficult Parent?
A difficult parent can take on various forms, but they typically exhibit behaviours that hinder effective co-parenting. Some common traits of difficult parents include:
1. High Conflict Behaviour: These parents are prone to frequent arguments, disputes, and conflicts with the co-parent. They may struggle to communicate calmly and rationally.
2. Uncooperativeness: Difficult parents often resist compromise and cooperation. They may ignore agreements, violate court orders, or act unilaterally in important decisions involving the child.
3. Manipulative or Controlling Behaviour: Some difficult parents attempt to manipulate the situation or control the co-parent’s actions, often to gain an upper hand in the parenting dynamic.
4. Inconsistent or Unreliable: A difficult parent may be inconsistent in fulfilling their parenting responsibilities. They may frequently change visitation schedules or fail to adhere to agreed-upon commitments.
5. Hostility or Negative Attitudes: Difficult parents may harbour resentment, anger, or negative attitudes towards the co-parent. These emotions can permeate interactions, making co-parenting challenging.
What is Co-Parenting?
Co-parenting is a parenting arrangement where separated or divorced parents work together to raise their child or children. It involves collaborative decision-making, open communication, and a shared commitment to the child’s well-being. The goal of co-parenting is to provide a stable and nurturing environment for the child, even if the parents are no longer together.
Co-parenting can take many forms, depending on the specific circumstances of the parents and the child. It might involve shared parenting time and cooperative decision-making on important matters like education and healthcare.
Making the Process Easier
Co-parenting with difficult parents can be extremely challenging, but it’s not impossible. Here are some strategies to help make the process easier.
Maintain open and respectful communication. Clearly express your concerns, and actively listen to their perspective. Avoid confrontations and focus on the child’s needs. Establish clear boundaries for communication and interactions. Use tools like email or a co-parenting app to minimise direct contact.
Keep records of all communications, agreements, and disputes. It can be helpful to refer back to past communications if there is a dispute or if evidence is required about a particular decision that has been made.
Remind yourself and the other parent that your shared goal is your child’s well-being. Keep your child’s best interests at the forefront of all decisions and actions.
Be consistent with schedules, rules, and routines for the child. Predictability can help reduce stress for both your child and the co-parents.
If communication breaks down, consider involving a neutral third party, such as a mediator or therapist, to help facilitate discussions and find common ground. If necessary, consult a lawyer to seek advice about legal options, recording a new parenting agreement or enforcing court orders.
Take care of your own emotional and mental well-being. Co-parenting with a difficult parent can be emotionally draining, so seek individual support from friends, family, or a therapist when needed.
Co-parenting with difficult parents is undoubtedly challenging, but it’s essential to prioritise the child’s needs above all else. By maintaining open communication, setting boundaries, and seeking external support when necessary, you can make the co-parenting process smoother and more manageable. Remember that it is possible to navigate the storm and provide a stable and loving environment for your child, even when dealing with a difficult co-parent.