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Vent to a friend, not your ex!


 

Separation can be emotionally charged, everything your ex does and says can make you so angry. The built-up emotions of sadness, frustration, resentment, and anger can erupt like a volcano at any moment. You find yourself lashing out with a tirade of abuse at them. You justify your actions to yourself because “They are to blame,” “They said no to my request, so I am saying no to theirs” or “They are just doing it for revenge.”


The anger is left to go unchecked and can really damage the opportunity to negotiate parenting time or property settlement.


Any chance at creating a coparenting relationship for the future is diminishing as the harmful words and actions cut deep. Communicating at handover can be either an explosive exchange or deathly silence as the precious cargo is handed over. The tension is palpable, and the children feel anxious and stressed at every handover.


Phone calls can be filled with sarcasm and snipes, with the little one’s hearts pounding and stomachs churning as they listen in fear of hearing their parents at war over them. All they want is to see both mum and dad, spending time with each of them where everyone is happy. Each time mum and dad see each other at handover or talk on the phone there is shouting and yelling.


Children can thrive if they do not see or hear the conflict. They can adjust to seeing each parent separately, especially when parents have been interchangeable with their care in their lives.

The damage done to children’s emotional wellbeing, from being caught between two parents competing over them, has long term effects.


So how can you protect your children from becoming collateral damage amidst the coparenting war?


The key is to minimise contact between the parents with contactless changeovers such as pickups and drop offs being at daycare, school, or grandma’s house. The less you see or talk to each other, conflict is minimised.


So how do you exchange information to each other about the children if you are not seeing or talking to the ex? Use a parenting app or email. Use text only for emergencies. Supply the information in a format where it outlines information only and actions required. For example, Sally has an assignment due on Monday. Could you please ensure she spends some time completing that?


It is also important to divert any aggrievances away from direct verbal communication with the ex as this will just escalate and continued conflict can lead to a violence order.


Ensure if you are feeling like you need to vent, that you do that with a trusted friend. A friend who has been a positive influence in listening to your problems, providing unconditional support and helps you to stay focused on minimising impact on the children. The worse kind of friend to be your confidante is one that fuels your anger like a coach in the corner of the boxing ring, riling you up to send you back out there to continue the fight with gusto. The best kind of friend will help you to see where you may be making things worse, help you stay calm and guide you with an alternative response to defuse any conflict. Making future focused actions instead of focusing on past hurt and anger.


Imagine your ex contacts you to ask why your child has a bruise on their arm. Your initial reaction may be to be defensive as you may feel like you are being accused of not been a good parent. You might get angry which escalates into conflict, resulting in authorities getting involved to investigate. This is not only traumatic for the parents but more so for the child. Trust is damaged on both sides and will take time to rebuild.


If you initially talked through your concerns with a trusted friend, the shock, anger, and parenting competency being questioned could dissipate once you had the opportunity to vent all your fears. You would talk about how you handled communicating about new bruises pe-separation, what may have happened,  if any bruises occurred on your parenting time, how you may have asked the child “Oh what did you do to your arm, Sally?” or how you might approach the coparent now calmly to say “I know the kids have bumps and bruises at this age but I noticed Sally has a bruise on her arm. Do you know what she did to get that?


Having a friend to talk through issues, instead of going straight to the ex, whilst upset will help preserve the coparenting relationship, minimise impact on the children and give you an opportunity to reality test your thoughts before planning on how to handle the situation calmly.

If you don’t have a trusted friend who can stay neutral and child focused, consider talking to a Divorce Conflict Coach to gain support.


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

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