What are some ways to deal with a vindictive co-parent? originally appeared on Quora, the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Vindictive parents appear angry, but usually, they are carrying a lot of hurt and grief. Their pride is hurt. Their feelings are hurt. Their hearts may be broken, but they aren’t likely to express that. They might not even be aware of what they are feeling or trying not to feel.
Instead, many parents who are hurt and angry from the separation or divorce act spitefully to strike out at the other parent. Too often, they are vindictive in ways that put your shared child in the middle of conflict, or worse—hurt the child emotionally. That’s the point: to hurt you through your child, the most direct route to you.
When the other parent is continuously undermining or disparaging you, then co-parenting is off the table. You need distance, time to let things cool off, or time to heal. You can, instead, aim to do "parallel parenting." What that means is that you each raise your child separately with few overlapping rules, responsibilities, or contacts, dealing with each other only when necessary.
When you are engaged in parallel parenting, you should have a basic plan for rules to keep your child safe and on a structure that supports their schooling and activities. If they are young, agreeing to a feeding and sleeping schedule is priority number one. When your child is just one or two years old, co-parenting is necessary to support optimal development in terms of brain development and emotional stability. But if your child is older than three years of age, such parallel parenting can work satisfactorily for everyone involved.
Despite everything, you must try your best to take the high road; that means continuing to act politely while keeping your distance—physically and emotionally. It means responding with decency when treated poorly. Being respectful instead of spiteful, even when it is killing you to do so. Your child will appreciate it and find living with separated parents easier. Then, your child won’t need to put so much energy into fixing things between you, and that energy can go where it belongs: into the child’s own activities and growing up.
Try these techniques:
1. Do not correspond directly with each other except when it is necessary. Apps like OurFamilyWizard are great for keeping communication restricted to the most important information regarding your child and making it easier to maintain a healthy distance. This app makes it simple to share information without adding fuel to ongoing disagreements.
2. Do as much parallel parenting as possible, in which you each manage your own parenting time with little to no contact with each other. Don’t give the other parent many opportunities to be vindictive.
3. When you have to talk or share information, always do it in a polite and timely way. Keep a business-like tone and share only what is necessary about your child (again, OurFamilyWizard can be super helpful with this). Refuse to engage in emotional discussion about your life or the other parent’s, or about what went wrong in your relationship.
4. Do not let yourself get so frustrated that you act as badly as the other parent. Show your child that you wish no ill will to the other parent. You will not be bullied or play along, but you will act with civility.
5. When the other parent undermines your parenting time or messes up an important event for your child, simply explain to your child that they do that because they’re upset, and you are sorry that they do not realize that how they’re acting won’t make the situation better. Let your child know that you will continue to show the other parent respect.
This question originally appeared on Quora.
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