From the Coparenting Coach's Desk

Are you pulling your hair out because of a high conflict co-parenting relationship? Are you tired of hearing people tell you: (1) it's going to get easier, (2) time heals all wounds, or (3) sometimes it just takes a while, and so on? 

Are you tired of it because you absolutely know beyond that there is little hope for change or improvement in your coaprenting realtionship? 

If so, you are definitely not alone. How else do you explain the library full of self-help books on crazy ex-spouses and "How To..." deal with them without losing your own mind, let alone your dignity? But does that really help, either? To know "you're not alone." Sometimes that is just not enough. So what does help?

For starters, take a good long look at yourself. The reason this person is in your life is because you made a choice or a series of choices at some point that didn't turn out the way you planned. That choice part is your responsibility. There are probably some shared responsibilities between the two of you as well, but you can only accept your part and you can do absolutely nothing with the part that belongs to your co-parent.

Next take a look at your child. Your contribution genetically is one-half which means the other half is irrevocably and undeniably contributed by your co-parent. Which half of your child are you hating, feeling angry with, wanting to scream at, or just hoping will drop dead? These thoughts should make you at least a little uncomfortable. You don't really hate half of your child or secretly wish that half of your child didn't exist. 

If a co-parent hates their co-parent more than they love their child, the child is essentially living in a war zone where every day means hoping you are alive at the end of it. Depression, fear, anxiety, terror, withdrawal, isolation - survival mode. This is not to say that your co-parent isn't difficult, maybe a high drama person who creates chaos everywhere they go and in everyone whose life they touch. What it does mean is that you have to find a way to parent sanely, consistently, and lovingly during your time with your child. 

Sanely. It only takes one reasonably sane co-parent to stay calm, grounded and focused on the needs of the child to have a huge positive impact and compensate for/overcome the shortcomings of the chaotic co-parent. If you are co-parenting with a high conflict person, you need to make a commitment to your self and your child to be the sane one and then follow through with whatever you need to stay sane. Be the calm in the middle of the storm. Resist the seductive pull of the chaos and drama.

Consistently. Daily routines provide the scaffolding on which to build a family structure that feels safe, secure, and nurturing to each family member. Your child needs to know that they can count on you to be stable, predictable, and fully present in the moment. Your child needs to know that the people you include in your inner circle are stable, predictable and fully present in the moment as well. Your child needs to know that each day with you will start pretty much the same way, that meal times will have a familiar pattern and that activities during the day occur with a rhythm that feels fun and interesting with just the right amount of challenge. 

Lovingly. Thoughtful and targeted parenting actions are the right of every child. It is through hundreds of tiny parenting actions every day that you show your love and care your child. Focus on your parenting. Think about how you will protect your child today. Plan all the ways you can listen actively to your child today. Create opportunities to nurture your child through words and actions and touch. Notice those teachable moments that emerge spontaneously when you are with your child and teach the values, concepts, and attitudes that are important to you.

Bottom line. Identify what you can and cannot control in your child's life now. Take responsibility for what you can control, and do it. Seek help from a professional to figure that out if you feel lost in the chaos. You owe it to yourself and you owe it to your child.