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10 reasons why changeover conflict escalates!

Changeover day can be the worse day of the week that you relive repeatedly! It always seems to end up in arguments, accusations or threatening behaviour.

Sometimes you can feel your ex is going to start a fight, accuse you of not looking after the children properly, or blame you for ruining their life.

Every week it is the same, like your life is on some loop like Groundhog Day, re-running the same old routine leaving you feeling emotionally exhausted.

Have you thought about why the conflict escalates? And don’t just say it is because your ex is high conflict!

There might be things you do or things they do that causes an adverse reaction!

There are many reasons why changeover conflict escalates.

  1. You may turn up late to changeover without notifying the coparent that you are running late. This can be interpreted as disrespectful, so be courteous reflecting that you would want the same consideration if your ex was running late.

  2. Your ex brings along their new partner which is like a red flag to a bull. It is insensitive to you, creating unnecessary distress and tension. Bringing new partners to changeover or kid’s events such as sports, school concerts etc should be mutually agreed beforehand.

  3. At every changeover you start talking about your relationship and pressuring your ex to consider getting back together. If your ex was the initiator in leaving it could have taken a long time for them to reach the decision to leave the relationship but once they accepted the relationship had no future, they checked out emotionally.  

  4. You start blaming your ex for leaving you and the impact that has had on your life instead of only focusing on talking about the kids. Instead of venting to your ex, it is better to vent to a supportive friend or counsellor who can help you process your emotions.

  5. Your ex starts arguing about finances such as child support, property settlement or selling the family home so they can get their share. Initiate property mediation to go through the formal channels to negotiate calmly and respectfully, facilitated by a neutral facilitator.

  6. Accusing the ex of harming the children when a bruise or cut is discovered. This is a sensitive topic and should be explored by asking the child how they hurt themselves before demanding to know what happened to your ex.

  7. Notifying your ex at changeover that you have booked a holiday or enrolled your child in a hobby that will impact the coparent’s parenting time. At changeover ask if you can call the coparent later to discuss something so that your children don’t wear the brunt of reactions.

  8. Lingering goodbyes with the children due to the child being distressed or your own reluctance to leave them. Your emotional tension creates an atmosphere that can make the children anxious at changeover. Ensure that you are positive and encouraging the children to go to the other parent by telling them they will have a fun time. Of course, if there are safety concerns then these need to be explored to ascertain if there is a safety risk.  

  9. Your ex doesn’t bring back the kid’s clothes, shoes or school supplies to changeover and you feel like you are forever having to buy replacements. Have duplicates at each house and send your kids back to the coparent in the washed clothes and shoes they arrived in.

  10. You are getting annoyed as your coparent isn’t having a similar routine at their house as yours and you feel it is disruptive for the kids. If the kids don’t have a problem with different rules at each house, then you may be better off accepting that even when you lived under the one roof, each parent did parenting differently. Of course, if it has an impact on the children’s sleep, school, or health then you may feel it is important to raise the issues to come to an agreement on both applying some important rules across both homes. This could include similar screen times, TV time, bedtime, etc. Have these discussions outside of changeover times to avoid conflict in front of the children or make agreements during parenting mediation.

It's important to see where you might be causing anguish to your ex at changeover and identify what causes you to become distressed at changeover. Both parents need to be calm and respectful for the sake of the children who can sense tension, animosity and annoyance.

Changeover can be hard for coparents, but most importantly the children. It needs to be a positive, safe and secure process to enable children to transition and adjust to the new family structure.

Author – Cheryl Duffy, Divorce Coach, Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner, NMAS Mediator, Divorce Conflict Coach & Parenting Coordinator.

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