Think there was a lot of conflict before you and your spouse decided to split up? According to the American Bar Association, 10 percent of divorce cases dissolve into high-conflict child custody battles. These can lead to accusations of parental alienation and parents ignoring direct court orders.
So, what can you do when neither of you wishes to give any ground and the fighting over the children is reaching an all-time high? Here are five tips that may help.
Step back and disengage
Parents often just need some space. Using parallel parenting, they can step back and reduce communication and conflict for a time. This allows anger and emotion to be reduced so that they can talk rationally about the situation.
Make sure communication is actually about parenting
When parents do communicate, they must be talking about the children and the parenting plan. The problem often stems from their desire to fight about other issues and they find it hard or impossible to get along. Parents must decompress, cut out all personal issues, and really focus on the kids.
Turn to written communication
Sometimes, parents struggle most when talking in person or on the phone. Tensions can be reduced if they communicate in writing. In the past, this meant letters and notes, and these can still be used. However, they may also want to use email, text messages and social media messages. Again, it's all about reducing emotions when possible.
Remember the goals
Parents who work with therapists and physiologists often find that conflict comes from having the wrong goals. When working with the other parent, they may be thinking about getting even, getting revenge, raking out their anger, or trying to prove that they're right and the other person is wrong. They may also be acting out of jealousy or out of fear - typically, fear that the child will be lost.
By re-focusing on the goal of meeting the child's needs and giving him or her the best possible life, parents can work through these issues and reduce conflict. That doesn't mean the other issues don't still exist, but they may no longer get in the way.
Create a well-established plan
Many conflicts arise because both parents are planning alone, rather than planning together. This makes it infuriating when one parent is expecting to have the kids for the holidays, for example, only to find out that the other parent was planning the same thing. It's imperative that parents have a clear plan in place for things like holidays, school schedules, children's transportation needs, extracurricular activities, travel, and the like. Parents who are on the same page fight less.
Throughout this process, it's crucial not only to work for the child's best interests, but also to know your own parental rights. Conflicts and compromises should not encroach on these rights, and your parenting plan must address them to protect you, your child, and your relationship.
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