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6 Conflicted Co-Parenting Challenges (And How to Deal With Them)

by | Oct 18, 2022 | 0 comments

The term “narcissism” on this blog is used to describe a specific set of personality traits. It is not intended to be used as a professional diagnosis.

Are you dealing with conflicted co-parenting? Is your ex making it difficult while you are trying to parent your child?

Unfortunately, it seems like this is a common issue nowadays, but don’t worry!

As difficult as your toxic co-parent may be, there are ways you can face these challenges to reduce stress and conflict.

Parenting with a toxic ex will never be perfect.

But you can improve the situation by understanding what these challenges are and how to deal with them!

So even though you think co-parenting with a toxic ex is impossible, it is doable.

Maybe not in a “perfect-happy-family” way, but in a way that is far less stressful on you and your child.

Keep reading to learn more about co-parenting challenges and how you can deal with them:

What Are Examples of Co-Parenting Conflict?

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Co-parenting conflicts can arise from various sources, often fueled by residual emotions from the past relationship.

Here are some examples and common conflicted co-parenting challenges you may face while co-parenting with a toxic parent:

Challenge #1: Your Toxic Co-Parent Causes Issues with the Agreement

Parallel parenting agreements and court orders are detailed arrangements. They outline things like who will pick up and drop off the child and a parenting time schedule.

It’s normal for pick-ups to run late or visits to be missed from time to time – we’re all human, and things happen.

However, your toxic co-parent may deliberately and consistently cause issues with the agreement just to, well, cause issues.

When it comes to the agreement, consistency can be frustrating for both you and your child.

How to Deal:

The first thing you should do is approach your toxic ex diplomatically about parenting problems. See if there is another arrangement that would work better for them.

If they resist your suggestions, keep a record of the conversation. These issues can be taken to court if you can’t resolve them yourselves.

Try to keep the visitation schedule tight by including rules if changes need to be made. This can include switching days, cancellation notices, and make-up days.

Challenge #2: Your Ex Bad Mouths You to Your Child

Sadly, toxic co-parents will sometimes bad mouth you and lie about you in order to manipulate the child.

This can be stressful and confusing to a child who wants to believe and love both parents. They will also internalize put-downs about their parent as a put-down toward themselves.

I remember when my daughter came home telling me her father called me a “bad mom.” She just rolled her eyes because she knew better.

But I know it still hurt her to hear that, even if she didn’t take it personally.

How to Deal:

If your child comes to you and tells you something their other parent said, simply say, “Oh no, that’s not true.”

You don’t have to go into detailed explanations about how that something is a lie. Instead, you can show them the difference between what your toxic co-parent says and what is true.

Don’t try to prove the other parent wrong!

You should also avoid bad-mouthing your ex in front of your child, even if you don’t think they are listening.

Setting this good example will help your child understand how their other parent is in the wrong.

Challenge #3: Your Ex Won’t Give Up Control of Your Child

When it comes to dealing with toxic partners, it all comes down to one person trying to control the other.

And this won’t change when there is a child involved.

You and your ex will inevitably have your differences in raising your child.

However, your toxic co-parent may even do things intentionally to regain control and undermine you.

This is frustrating because you are trying to be the best parent to your child, and your ex is making efforts to undo everything!

How to Deal:

Much of dealing with challenges when parenting with a toxic ex comes down to controlling what you can and letting the rest go.

Unless your child is in danger, there’s not much you can do about how your ex parents your child.

You can take control of your time with your child. Provide them with support and consistency that they will likely not receive from their other parent.

Challenge #4: Your Toxic Co-Parent is Uncooperative

Being uncooperative is really the cornerstone of a toxic co-parent’s behavior. They will do whatever they can to make things difficult, even if the disagreements make no sense.

For example, your child has a birthday party they want to attend, but it lands on their day with their other parent.

You offer to switch days so that they don’t lose time together.

Even though this is a reasonable situation and reasonable compromise, they say “no” without a good explanation as to why.

How to Deal:

All you can do is keep your side of the street clean and control what you can. They will do what they’re going to do, and you can’t control it.

Many of these moments of uncooperativeness are going to suck for your child, and it’s unfortunate, but you will just have to find ways to work around them.

Challenge #5: You Can’t Communicate With Your Ex

I know what it’s like dealing with a toxic co-parent and trying to bite my tongue and avoid lashing out. But at some point, I learned it was in the best interest of my child to remain civil.

As difficult as that may be!

Chances are, no matter how calm and business-like you approach conversations with your ex, they will still fly off the handle and make communication extremely difficult.

How to Deal:

Stick to what you’re doing and limit your communication to text or email. You can’t change your ex’s behavior, but you can control how you handle it.

When you do need to share information with your ex, make sure you do so in a way that is straightforward and clear. Just state the facts and leave it at that.

How they respond is up to them.

Challenge #6: Your Toxic Co-Parent Uses Your Child as a Spy

An important aspect of parallel parenting is removing yourself from your ex’s life and refraining from taking an interest in theirs.

However, your ex may use your child to spy on you and give them information about your personal life.

This is a form of parental alienation known as brainwashing, which can be very damaging to a child.

Not only does it teach kids to be sneaky, but it also breaks down the relationship between you and your child by creating conflict, discomfort, and distrust.

How to Deal:

Tell your child that you understand that they want to “help” their other parent but that by sharing information, they are not helping.

Just make sure they understand that this is not their fault. If they ask why their other parent is making them do so, explain that they are curious about what is going on in your life but that it’s none of their business.

Ultimately, make sure you are not over-sharing information about your life with your child.

There are things you can tell them that are age-appropriate, but in the end, they don’t need to know every detail of what you are doing.

Parenting With a Toxic Ex: What You Need to Focus On

Taking the High Road

I’ll keep saying it: It’s extremely difficult to bite your tongue when you’re dealing with someone toxic and unreasonable – but you have to do it!

And I can tell you from experience it gets easier over time.

Taking the high road is beneficial in many ways.

First, it does reduce conflict even though your ex may still fly off the handle when you try to communicate with them. If you don’t feed their need to fight, you are avoiding tons of potential conflict.

Second, it helps you regulate and control your emotions. I found that the more I avoided arguments with my ex, the less anxious and stressed I became when we had to talk about things.

Lastly, taking the high road sets an amazing example for your children. It shows them healthy conflict management skills and will eventually help them realize that you are the parent who will.

Your Priorities

Your priority is to be the best parent to your child you possibly can.

As much as conflicted co-parenting may make this difficult, this is your goal.

I know you would love to make your toxic ex disappear, but if they want to be in their child’s life, you can’t make that happen. What you can do is focus on your own parenting skills and fill in the gaps your child will experience with their toxic parent.

You also need to be a priority because you can’t parent to the best of your abilities if you constantly feel like you are taking crazy pills.

Take some time for your own self-care and also reflect on what happened to you during the relationship so you can start healing from the experience.

If you’re not sure how to get started, check out my post on healing from toxic relationship abuse.

Consistency for Your Kids

Children thrive on consistency, and while they may not receive it in their other parent’s home, you can definitely provide it for them in yours.

Providing consistency creates a safe and supportive environment for your child. They’ll know that no matter what they go through with their other parent, they will be safe with you.

Consistency includes things like regular bedtimes, chores, and other expectations, but it also has to do with how you deal with conflict and how you approach tough topics.

Conflicted Co-Parenting – How to Deal With Challenges

There you go! Now that you better understand the challenges of parenting with a toxic ex and how to deal with them, you can start implementing these tips to reduce stress in your life.

And the life of your child! The less they see and experience, the better they are for it.

Let me know in the comments below if there are any challenges you have with your toxic co-parent that I didn’t address!

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Let’s create a supportive community and navigate the complexities of co-parenting with strength and resilience!


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