When Co-Parenting Hurts Your Child

The term co-parenting is mostly used for divorced couples, but it applies to married couples where conflict exists. Please read with an open mind, and take only the pieces of information that are helpful to you.

In a typical co-parenting situation post-divorce, we have two parents who love their children but they don’t love each other anymore. They may not even have respect for each other any longer. Either one, or both parents, lose focus of what’s really important and start using the children as mediators, messengers, or punching bags for emotional outbursts. Sometimes, the unhealthy parent will try to circumvent the healthy parent and communicate directly with the children (via phone, text, or social media) – aiming to influence the children to “take sides”, or take other actions against the healthy parent.

These situations are extremely difficult to manage, no matter how much self-awareness and healing work a person has done. If this type of hurtful dynamic is happening in your family, I am suggesting few ideas for your consideration (Please, take only what resonates with you at this moment):

  • Forgive yourself if you reacted in a way that was not your best. If you are co-parenting with a high-conflict ex, you are probably mentally exhausted.
  • Seek extra help from a trusted advisor, therapist or coach.
  • Repair the connection with your children if your own reaction did hurt them. Do not push these incidents “under the rug”. Children do not need perfect parents, they need conscious parents. They also need transparent and humble parents. Depending on the age of your children, you can have a conversation at the right time, when you are calm and fully in your prefrontal cortex ( superior thinking), instead of being hijacked by your fight or flight response. If your children are very young, under the age of 7, repair with plenty of listening time and play time – see my previous articles on how to listen well and how to play to connect.
  • Remove yourself from the conflict with the other parent. Do not engage in the conflict. (You must resist the urge to reply to that nasty text!)
  • Document the facts in writing. Do not mix your feelings with the facts. (Check @onemomsbattle and her website for more resources).
  • Do the work of understanding your triggers, your sensitive buttons, and your vulnerabilities. Without this work, you cannot grow or make progress.
  • Write in your journal as a form of release and emotional processing. Do not judge what you’re writing.
  • Write a gratitude list of 10 things you are grateful for every morning or every evening.
  • Increase your connection time with each child – more time spent together, more play, more walks, more “being silly” together.
  • Take time off from social media.
  • Decrease everyone’s time on electronics.
  • Sleep 7-9 hours each night.
  • Exercise every day.
  • Eat unprocessed, whole foods.
  • Vent to a trusted friend.
  • Laugh more.
  • Get longer hugs from friends and family.
  • Dance. Sing. Draw. Paint. Express yourself.

We are the leaders of our families. We can only influence by example. If we practice self-compassion, self- forgiveness and self-awareness, our children learn to have compassion for themselves. If we repair after an outburst, our children learn important life lessons such as conflict resolution, accountability and self-worth.

Last but not least, nobody can change another person. Any change possible is within ourselves. This is really hard work. If you are going through a tough co-parenting situation right now, you are not alone. Please get the support you need and deserve.

Testimonial from a mom in my program:

When I initially connected with Mihaela, I was not sure what to expect. I was trying to heal from a difficult divorce from a narcissist, dealing with the aftermath of broken pieces, all while trying to keep it together for my 5 year old daughter.  I didn’t know how to handle the extreme aggressive outbursts, excessive tantrums, and what seemed like disrespectful disobedience coming from my baby.  I felt defeated and not equipped enough to handle it.

Working with Mihaela made me realize that those episodes were my daughter’s cries for help. She is feeling the effects of the divorce as well because she is so young that she doesn’t know how to handle it. Mihaela has been amazing. She has challenged me to see things from a different perspective. She has helped me to realize a lot of the frustration or anger I was experiencing from others is just a mirror of what work I need to do, but most importantly she has helped me create a stronger bond with my daughter. I have learned better ways to deal with  my emotions which in turn helps me to help my daughter with hers.

Mihaela is intelligent, challenging, thought provoking, caring, passionate, and supportive.

I highly recommend Mihaela and her Conscious Parenting program. Thank you, Mihaela for your continued support and guidance! Words cannot express enough the value you have provided to me and my daughter!”

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