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How to Have Difficult Conversations When Co-Parenting

by | Sep 12, 2023 | 0 comments

Difficult Conversations When Co-Parenting. Man and woman sitting on couch arguing.

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.

TINY - Pins - Short (1)Co-parenting can be challenging even in the best of circumstances, but when you’re dealing with a difficult ex-partner, it can feel like an uphill battle.

However, effective communication and conflict resolution are key to successful co-parenting.

Especially when you’re psyching yourself up to have a difficult conversation with your ex!

On this blog and in my book on parallel parenting, I preach hard about limiting communication and only talking to difficult and narcissistic co-parents when necessary.

Well, this article is going to help you when those conversations are necessary and difficult!

If you’re a mom facing these challenges, here’s what you need to know:

Co-Parenting Rules For Difficult Conversations

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The best thing you can do before involving yourself in a difficult conversation with your ex is to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally.

So if you are stressed about things like having to change the parenting time schedule, or you are scared to death to bring up a notable issue (like when my daughter used to come home smelling like cigarette smoke), here are the ways you can approach the conversation:

Maintain Calm and Composure

When engaging in difficult conversations with your co-parent, it’s crucial to remain calm and composed.

Emotions can run high, but reacting impulsively can escalate conflicts.

Take deep breaths, stay focused on the issue at hand, and avoid personal attacks.

The best thing you can do is communicate in written forms like text or email, and doing so will give you time to get your thoughts in order.

But if you do have to face your ex face to face, write down what you want to say first so that you can be concise, straightforward, and stay on topic.

Keep the Children’s Best Interests in Mind

Always prioritize your children’s well-being. Remember that co-parenting is about what’s best for them, not about your personal differences with your ex-partner.

Use this perspective as a guiding principle in your discussions – even if you are not having a conversation with your ex in front of your child, pretend that they are there.

This will keep you focused on their well-being and help you keep yourself calm and on topic.

Establish Clear Boundaries

Set clear boundaries for communication and interactions with your co-parent.

Define when and how you’ll communicate, whether it’s through email, text, or a co-parenting app.

Consistency in communication methods can reduce misunderstandings.

Again, written communication is best, and this is something you should establish right away.

You are under no circumstances required to discuss anything with your ex face-to-face or on the phone.

In fact, many courts will implement written communication in court orders when it comes to difficult co-parenting situations, so don’t be afraid to establish that boundary!

How Do You Communicate With a Difficult Co-Parent?

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Okay, so we’ve gone over the rules, but how exactly do you approach or respond to your ex when they are difficult?

When communicating with a difficult co-parent, it’s essential to be patient and strategic:

  • Choose Your Battles Wisely: Not every disagreement requires a lengthy conversation. Pick your battles and focus on the most critical issues. Avoid nitpicking or arguing over minor details.
  • Use Written Communication: Written communication can be less confrontational than face-to-face or phone conversations. Emails or text messages provide a record of your discussions, which can be helpful if disputes arise later.
  • Be Concise and Specific: Keep your messages concise and to the point. Avoid lengthy explanations or emotional outbursts. Stick to the facts and communicate your needs clearly.

How Do You Resolve Conflict in Co-Parenting?

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Okay, so you can approach a difficult conversation with a difficult co-parent by preparing all you want, but it’s not always going to prevent conflict.

(Especially if your ex is narcissistic. They can make an issue out of nothing!)

So if you do run into conflict with your ex, here are tips to resolve it or, at the very least, reduce it:

  • Seek Mediation or Counseling: If communication with your co-parent consistently breaks down, consider seeking professional mediation or counseling. A neutral third party can help facilitate productive discussions and find common ground.
  • Focus on Problem-Solving: Approach conflicts as problems to be solved rather than battles to be won. Collaborate with your co-parent to find mutually acceptable solutions. Compromise may be necessary to reach a resolution.
  • Document Agreements: Whenever you reach an agreement with your co-parent, document it in writing. This helps prevent future misunderstandings and provides a reference point if disputes arise.

Communication With a Difficult Co-Parent

Navigating difficult conversations when co-parenting is a challenge, but it’s essential for the well-being of your children. 

Remember that every interaction with your ex is you advocating for your children.

So the more you can prepare for difficult conversations and reduce conflict, the better!

And if your ex can’t follow suit and continues to cause issues, that’s on them.

Share your co-parenting experiences in the comments below! Let’s support each other on this journey.

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