You’re trying out parallel parenting techniques because nothing else worked. But are you worried this form of co-parenting will keep you from raising well-balanced children? Here are five tips to help you minimize conflict so your kids can live in peace.
Don’t Bad-Mouth Your Ex. This bit of common sense is straightforward, but hard to practice. Even the most well-intentioned co-parents occasionally share less than kind words about their ex to their children. If this sounds like you, it’s time to step up your game. Your ex, as much as you may loathe him or her, makes up 50% of your child. When your kids hear you put down their other parent, they personalize your remarks. Hearing even occasional criticism sparks anxiety: if I act like Dad, will Mom hate me too? If you must vent out loud, do so in the confines of a therapist’s office.
Don’t Try To Control What Goes On In Your Ex’s House. Part of “getting over” your divorce is accepting circumstances you don’t like, but can’t change. Often, this includes how your ex runs his or her house. Unless your child’s safety is legitimately compromised while at the other parent’s home, you have no business butting in and trying to get your former spouse to do things your way. Insisting that your ex adopt your parenting style and home rules will just inflame conflict, which then creates chaos for your kids.
Limit Interactions When Children Are Present. Divorced couples that parallel parent have a hard time containing their animosity when children are present. Protect your kids from witnessing conflict by limiting their exposure. The easiest ways to do this are arranging curbside drop-offs, timeshare exchanges at school instead of home, separate parent-teacher conferences if possible, and two different birthday parties.
Don’t Triangulate Your Kids. Do you interrogate your child after their return from the other parent’s home? Do you attempt to him or her on your side by alleging that your ex is unfit? Ever urge your kids to call you if they’re not happy with your former spouse’s rules? If so, you are creating a toxic triangle. Not only are you damaging their relationship with their other parent, but you are also teaching them dysfunctional communication habits that they will bring into their future relationships.
Sweep Your Own Side of the Street. This 12-step slogan should be your parallel parenting mantra. It means that you shift your focus from obsessing about your ex’s 97 terrible qualities to your own behaviors. Fixating on your former spouse’s issues is pointless because you can’t change them. So keep your attention where it belongs – on yourself. If you’re hypercritical towards your ex, this is a sign that you need to let go of your energy-draining obsessive tendencies and get honest about your character defects. Whatever you can do towards your personal growth – managing anger, cultivating patience, practicing compassion – will make you a better role model for your children.
Even married couples have inconsistent parenting styles; so don’t beat yourself up if you have to adopt a Parallel Parenting strategy. The best way to help your kids become balanced individuals is to minimize conflict and teach them how to respect other people’s differences.
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