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A Simple Strategy to Put Out the Fire of CoParent Conflict

One circumstance that entrenches co-parents in high-conflict is when a parent has acute anxiety over the safety of their children while they are at the other coparent’s home. Many of the things I suggest relate to helping  coparents minimize uncertainty and worry.

I encourage coparents to specifically agree in writing on safety measures inside each of their homes. I do so not just to maximize the children’s safety but also to minimize conflict between parents. Safety measures should include protections to both the child’s physical and emotional health.

An example from my client Marlene. 

Marlene didn’t sleep at night when her kids stayed at their other parent’s house.  Her eight year old had mentioned that the smoke detector was beeping and that her dad took it down and threw it away. 

 Two things. Marlene was so immediately enraged and frightened that she did not stop to think about whether her child may have misunderstood the situation.  Rather than toss and turn fully awake all night, couldn't she have inquired of her coparent about the smoke detector? The answer was "No."  Marlene said, “If I ask him the slightest little thing it makes everything worse, then he really won’t tell me anything!” Her point was well taken and that brings me to the second thing.

 Anxiety about the safety of children and anger over being judged incompetent is a common pattern between high-conflict co-parents. 

When one parent is worried about the child’s well-being and makes their feelings known to the other parent, often the other parent feels judged and deemed a bad parent.  The parent who feels unfairly judged, then begins to share less and less with the concerned parent because they believe doing so just opens them up to being criticized and judged further. The concerned parent becomes even more worried.  Further, the criticized parent often has their own safety concern, that being that the parent who endlessly worries is emotionally harmful to the child.  Further when children believe their parent worries  for their safety at the other parent’s home, their belief causes them fear for their safety when they need to feel safe in the hands of the parent they are with.

So the cycle goes round and round and inevitably influences the child.

 Is there a better way to handle safety concerns? 

 Both parents can start by realizing that they each have concerns or anxiety about when the children are with the other parent, albeit for different reasons.  We love our children and fear unknown factors that can harm them when they are outside our locus of control. ( Facing the notion that we ever have full control to keep our children safe is for another post.)

 Next, co-parents, to minimize uncertainty and worry, can specifically agree in writing on safety measures inside each of their homes. Safety measures should include protections to both the child’s physical and emotional health. Invariably both parents, even the parent who seems a bit too chill for the other’s comfort, will have concerns about safety.  Both parents' allegiance to their their own concern is protected if they heed the safety measures as a whole versus their concerns being at stake if they minimize the other parent’s concern.  I have seen this tactic serve to have coparents validate each other;s concerns.


  Protecting your children from the emotional harm caused by divorce can seem impossible. Yet the harm to children doesn’t arise from divorce itself, but from high conflict between parents.  


Psychologist and former family lawyer Dr. Jodi Peary specializes in helping divorced parents restructure their relationship with each other, deepen their relationship with their children, and get in touch with their authentic selves again — all critical steps to minimizing damage from divorce.


Her Enlightened Co-Parenting method helps parents build a healthy co-parenting foundation that makes working with an ex to raise happy, healthy children seem intuitive, rather than impossible.


Two Step

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