If you and your ex already have a high-conflict co-parenting relationship, the holidays can exacerbate problems. If you feel like your co-parent is out to make your life as miserable as possible, there are strategies you can use to make things go as smoothly as possible for your children. This, of course, should be your primary focus.
For many battling co-parents, communication is difficult. A parent who is intent on rehashing old grievances or creating new ones can use virtually any form of communication (in-person, phone calls, texts or emails) to do so. However, you don’t have to take the bait. It may be best to avoid face-to-face and phone conversations. When communicating via text, email or online messaging, keep your responses as neutral and consistent as possible.
Here’s a handy acronym to remember when replying to a communication from your co-parent — no matter how critical or insulting it may be: KIND.
Kid-centered: Look for the part of the communication that involves your child and respond to that.
Informational: Respond with the information that’s needed regarding your child. Don’t defend yourself or argue with your co-parent.
Nice: Regardless of the tone of your co-parent’s communication, keep yours polite, respectful and perhaps even friendly. It can be difficult to continue to insult someone who isn’t responding in anger. Besides, maybe they were just having a bad day or a bad moment. Responding angrily can bring it all back.
Direct: Keep your response as short as possible. If it’s a text or email, reread it and edit it before you send it. If it doesn’t need a response right away, take some time to calm down if it provoked angry feelings.
None of this means that you should apologize if you haven’t done anything wrong or that you should give in to every request your co-parent makes to change the parenting time arrangement to fit their needs. However, if there are times when you can compromise or agree to what they’re asking for without any serious disruption to your plans — and it’s best for the kids — you may be helping your relationship in the long run. That will only benefit your children.
If you continue to have problems with your co-parent, there may be ways to minimize your need for communication without jeopardizing your children’s well-being. Your family law attorney may be able to provide some helpful guidance and suggestions.