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How Can Single Moms Manage Emotional Triggers in Co-Parenting?

by | Oct 18, 2023 | 4 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 struggling to manage emotional triggers in co-parenting?

Whether you are dealing with the leftover negative feelings after a separation or a narcissistic ex, it’s normal to experience emotional reactivity to things they say or do.

(Especially if you are trying to co-parent with a narcissist!)

However, despite the way you may feel, it’s important that your parenting relationship is based on the best interests of your children.

But I know that sometimes building a healthy relationship with your ex can be extremely challenging or even impossible.

Unless they want to put effort into effectively co-parenting, there’s no way you can change their approach.

That’s why we’re going to talk about how to control your emotional triggers so that what your ex says or does doesn’t bother you as much.

It’s all about taking control of a challenging and frustrating situation!

So, let’s get started:

How Do You Emotionally Detach from a Co-Parent

Controlling emotions when co-parenting all starts with detaching yourself emotionally from your ex. 

I’m not talking about “getting over” the relationship or any residual romantic feelings – I mean getting yourself to a place where what your ex says or does doesn’t affect your emotional state.

Here are some ways you can do that:

The Gray Rock Method

“Gray rock” is a method used mostly for dealing with narcissists, but it can work in any situation where your ex triggers negative emotional reactions.

It involves making yourself as uninteresting and unresponsive as a gray rock by limiting how much personal information you share, maintaining a neutral tone, keeping your communication short and sweet, and redirecting conversations away from personal matters or conflicts.

Basically, keep all of your conversations focused on your child and co-parenting matters. Ignore your ex’s attempts to veer your chats toward unrelated topics.

Prioritize Your Child’s Needs

When you are dealing with emotional triggers in co-parenting, it’s important to remember who is at the heart of this entire situation: your child.

Focusing on your child’s needs is a powerful way to detach emotionally from your ex. When you find yourself triggered by your ex’s behaviors or words, just remind yourself that you are doing all of this for the sake of your child.

Keeping this in mind will help you set aside personal emotions and stay focused on what really matters.

Emotional Self-Care

Take time for self-care so you can recharge your emotional resilience!

While self-care is a great way to relax, it can also help you maintain emotional stability and prevent your ex’s actions from triggering you and affecting your overall well-being.

When you’re thinking about self-care activities, focus on things that help you feel calm and peaceful and distract you from negative thoughts and feelings.

We’re not trying to ignore your negative feelings, but self-care can help you rewire your brain so you don’t default to these feelings when you don’t have to.

How to Set Emotional Boundaries When Co-Parenting

Dealing with emotional triggers in co-parenting is all about control – and not just controlling your reactions.

As much as you may feel like your co-parenting situation is out of hand, especially if your ex is difficult, you can take back control by setting boundaries.

These boundaries can protect your emotional well-being and reduce the impact of your ex’s behavior on your life!

Here are some steps to set emotional boundaries:

  • Establish Clear Rules: Let your ex know what behaviors are acceptable and which ones are not. Tell them that if they treat you in a way that is unacceptable, you will end the conversation.
  • Avoid Personal Attacks: Stay away from personal attacks or arguments, as tempting as it may be to counterattack or defend yourself. Keep your conversations focused on your child and nothing else.
  • Use Written Communication: Whenever possible, communicate in writing in order to avoid face-to-face confrontations, minimize emotional engagement, and maintain a record of what is said.

Overall, the most important thing you can do to establish emotional boundaries while co-parenting is to practice remaining calm and collected when faced with negativity or provocation.

Don’t let your ex’s words or actions disrupt your emotional balance – this is in your control!

Learning How to Control Your Emotional Reactions

Dealing with these emotional triggers in co-parenting is not something that happens overnight. It takes time and practice to develop this valuable skill, especially when you are co-parenting with a difficult ex.

Here are some steps you can take to learn how to control your emotional reactions:

1. Pause Before Responding

One of the most effective strategies for controlling emotions when co-parenting is to pause before responding.

When you’re faced with a provocation or challenging statement from your ex, take a deep breath and allow yourself a moment to collect your thoughts.

This pause can help you respond more thoughtfully and prevent impulsive reactions.

2. Choose Whether Or Not to Respond

Sometimes, the best response is no response!

Choosing not to engage in certain conversations or arguments with your co-parent can be a powerful way to maintain emotional balance.

Think about whether or not you need to respond, and if you don’t, just let it go.

This deliberate choice not to react can protect your emotional well-being!

3. Think About the Outcome of Your Response

Over time, you’re going to get a good feel for what your ex will and will not respond to (positively and negatively). If you do need to respond, think about the outcome of that response.

In some situations, you may feel confident that you are not going to get a positive or agreeable response from your ex no matter what you say – this is when you can choose to ignore or just give a simple response.

Here’s an example:

Your Ex: “Johnny says he didn’t go to bed until late last night. Why are you letting him stay up so late?”

Option A: “We kind of missed bedtime last night, but it rarely happens. Our boy’s sleep is important to me!”

Option B: “It was a one-time thing. Johnny has an appropriate bedtime here.”

Option C: Ignore if you think your ex is just trying to start an argument.

4. Dismiss Provocation

So this really ties into Option C in the example where you dismiss your ex’s attempt to start an argument and provoke a reaction from you.

Again, you’ll start to recognize these attempts over time, and you’ll be able to consciously choose not to take the bait.

Dismissing these attempts by not reacting gives you control over the situation and minimizes the emotional turmoil it can cause.

5. Practice Emotional Resilience

Emotional resilience is the ability to bounce back from challenging situations. You can practice emotional resilience by reminding yourself of your strength and capacity to handle difficult emotions.

This will help you maintain a positive outlook and a sense of control even when faced with emotionally charged situations with your ex.

6. Recognize and Accept Your Emotions

Controlling your emotions when co-parenting doesn’t mean ignoring your feelings.

It’s important that you recognize and accept your emotions and understand that it’s normal to feel a wide range of emotions when dealing with a challenging co-parent.

These emotions can include anger, frustration, sadness, and even fear. 

Instead of trying to suppress or ignore these feelings, acknowledge them and find healthy ways of expressing them.

Take Back Control: Dealing With Emotional Triggers in Co-Parenting

Knowing how to control your emotional triggers in co-parenting takes time and practice, but you will be able to create a healthier environment for you and your child.

By detaching emotionally, setting boundaries, and controlling your reactions, you can navigate co-parenting as a single mom with more resilience and focus on what matters most – your child’s well-being and your happiness!

Share your own experiences and tips for managing emotional triggers in co-parenting. Your insights can be a lifeline for other single moms on this journey. Leave a comment below! ????

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


  1. Avatar

    This is great! I definitely find myself triggered by messes and tantrums. I’m a work in progress!

    • Chelsy

      Aren’t we all? lol I love your site, by the way! We seem to have a lot of similar views on motherhood and mental health. <3

  2. Avatar

    I am crying as i am reading all this, had a bad night. Got triggered by my lil one not listening and completely ignoring me, essentially lost my shit once we were ready for bed and he bit me and that just made me shake with anger. Instantly the shame and quilt just set in and take over. I have been so very good at managing my stress and triggers and today I just lost my effing mind and I still dont know why I was so upset. Work in progress i suppose.

    • Chelsy

      It’s always a work in progress! The amazing thing about children is that you are always going to be the one they test limits with and push buttons because they love and trust you. They know that, even when you lose your mind, you are their safe place and will always love them too. I can tell you’re a great mom because even that one time brought on the guilt and you know that losing your shit is not normal. <3



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