Top 5 Disastrous Co-Parenting Don’ts

Top 5 Disastrous Co-Parenting Don’ts.

One thing divorce doesn’t change is you being a parent. Regardless of your feelings towardsTop 5 Disastrous Co-Parenting Don'ts your ex, your new life structure will most likely involve a co-parenting scenario. How you and your ex handle this will either ease the transition for your children or create additional chaos and stress. You may find yourself occasionally, or in some cases frequently, participating in less than desirable behavior. The following top 5 disastrous co-parenting don’ts will shed light on trouble areas and provide some helpful tips for overcoming these difficulties.                  

1. Sabotage

Don’t sabotage your child’s relationship with their other parent. This is not fair to your child and often the child will end up resenting you for it rather than your ex. It is critically important for a child to have healthy relationships with both parents.

Regardless of what you may think your child loves the other parent maybe as much as they love you. Shocking? Not really. Your child may act like they agree with you when you talk about what a “terrible person” their father or mother might be, but that’s not going to stop them from loving the other parent. Love is complicated and very different in a child/parent relationship. The point is, don’t try to manipulate your child into feeling bad for loving your ex. All you’re doing is hurting one of the people you love most in this world.

2. Trash Talk

Refrain from speaking ill of your ex in front of the kids. You may hear feedback from your children that makes you bristle, take a breath, and remain quiet. Remember that any negative comments your children make are often best taken with a grain of salt. It’s always good to remain neutral when things like this happen. Research shows that your child can learn to resent and distrust you if you cheer them on.

Belittling or saying unkind things about your ex, regardless of how accurate they might be, is extremely hurtful to your children. After all, your children are the product of both parents, so insulting your ex is the same thing as indirectly insulting your child.

3. Put Kids in the Middle

Don’t burden your child with emotionally charged issues about your ex. Research shows that putting children in the middle of your adult issues promotes feelings of helplessness and insecurity, causing children to question their own strengths and abilities.

Unfortunately, co-parent’s frequently put the kids in the middle by intentionally choosing whatever options are least convenient for one another. This is just another way of stirring up trouble with your ex, and there’s often no reason for it.

A bad habit that usually begins innocently, no matter how good your intentions are, is talking to your ex through your kids. For example, using your children to adjust your parenting time schedule on the fly puts them in the middle and forces them to be the recipients of your ex’s response. So, the next time you find yourself saying, “Let your dad know that I’ll pick you up at 4:30” or “Did you tell your mom that Saturday doesn’t work?” stop and pick up the phone. Call your ex directly or, at the very least, send a quick text or email instead.

4. Overindulge

Don’t give in to guilt. A divorce is a traumatizing event for kids to go through, and it often leaves parents feeling guilty. As a way to try and make things right, some parents may overindulge their kids a bit. This might be done by buying them lots of gifts, treating them to extra desserts throughout the day, or simply letting them get their way whenever they want it. While it isn’t wrong or bad to sometimes indulge your children’s desires, it can turn into an issue if it is done too often.

Although it might feel good to make your children happy in the moment, you’re not doing them any favors in the long run by overindulging them now. Research shows that children can become self-centered, impulsive, lack empathy, and believe in the need to get unrealistic entitlement from others. Love and respect are things that are earned, not bought.

5. Be the “Cool” Parent

Don’t be an unbalanced parent. Resist being the fun dad or the cool mom when your children are with you. Being the fun-only parent who has no rules and lets the children eat candy for dinner, stay up late on a school night, dress inappropriately, or avoid doing homework sets into motion a cycle of resentment, hostility, and a reluctance to follow rules for all involved.

A responsible co-parent is a grown-up, not a playdate. Remember that children develop best with a united front. Co-parenting with a healthy dose of fun, structure, and predictability is a win-win for everyone.

It’s important not to beat yourself up if you recognize yourself in these 5 Don’ts. The trauma of loss plays havoc with our coping skills, and in that, we are all human, mistakes will occur. The good news is that you can adjust your thoughts and actions to increase the well-being of your children and are most likely already doing things to ensure that your kids feel safe, secure, and loved. Want to learn more about what benefits children being co-parented? Check out 5 Vital Co-Parenting Dos.

If you are experiencing stressful co-parenting and looking for additional support join our Community. We are here for you.

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Essential Resources

If you’re facing legal/custody battles, a mental health crisis, an urgent medical issue, serious emotional problems, including suicidal thoughts, please seek help from the appropriate professionals near you.

Suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
Crisis line: 1-800-356-5395
Crisis text line: Text “help” to 741741
The National Domestic Violence Hotline
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) Resources Marital Life Inventory
Divorce Lifecycle Document
Divorce Process Overview


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