Co-parental conflict is often more about unresolved resentment than your child’s well-being



It is no surprise that parents will continue to experience conflict with regard to their children after separation or divorce.  If you were unable to get on before you were separated, it is likely that unresolved issues between the two of you will continue to cause conflict.  This leaves the children floundering as they negotiate themselves between divided loyalties.A new partner brought into the mix often adds to the stress, and conflict can escalate even further.

Change is only likely to take place when one or both of you are prepared to address any residual resentments which continue to inflame any challenging interaction with the other co-parent.  This means that you may need to make a choice to let go of any guilt or shame that you may be feeling, or be willing to forgive and draw a line under any past transgressions carried out by the co-parent.  Anger towards the other co-parent regarding the demise of your relationship has no place in the co-parental relationship, as it is likely to heap pain and suffering on your child.  Do you still harbour resentments towards the other co-parent?  Are you prepared to hold onto these feelings even though they may continue to cause you and your child pain?

It can feel easier at times to remain stuck in the old ways of relating, and even to wallow in our resentments.  To let go of these feelings may mean that we have to accept the changes that have come into our lives and take responsibility for the way forward.  It may even mean that we have to let go of the planned future that we had for ourselves and our child, and begin to construct new, albeit challenging ways forward.

Conflict very often arises from five areas of co-parental interaction:

  • Finances
  • Contact arrangements
  • Rules and discipline
  • Care and supervision of the child
  • Decisions making around schooling, medical treatment etc.

Can you identify in which areas you find yourself in conflict with the other co-parent?

Looking at these problems through the eyes of your child may motivate you to begin to deal with conflict between you and the other co-parent in new and more helpful ways.Very often it can help to put ourselves in the other person's shoes.   If your child had the opportunity to tell you, without fear of rejection or being reprimanded, how would your child answer the following question?

My parents mostly fight about _________________ and __________________.  I want them to stop because it makes me feel _________________.

Now for the very brave:

My child's co-parent is upset/angry with me because I sometimes/often _________________.  Perhaps if I _________________then my child will be less stressed/feel more happy.

It is far easier to lay blame at the other co-parent's feet then to resolve to make even small changes that may in some way alleviate conflict and therefore the stress placed upon your child.  Any, even small improvements in rapport between you and the other co-parent has a positive effect on everyone.  Every single time you choose to respect your child's right to co-parents who do not criticise or blame each other, you are safe keeping your child's emotional well-being.

Posted by CoParenting

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In some families, please is described as the magic word. In our house, however, it was sorry. - Margaret Laurence