Here is some advice on what coParents can do to help children from high conflict divorce families. This information is from Bob Livingstone, a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker with a private practice in San Francisco.
What is a high conflict divorce? Livingstone explains it is where marriage ends and war begins and that kids find different ways to cope in a world where the coParents despise one another.
• Firstly, as a coParent, ask yourself about your child’s difficulties, suggests Livingstone. Are you contributing to them? Wondering what you may be doing wrong, instead of just blaming the other coParent for everything is suggested.
• Make sure to not send the message that the other coParent is terrible. Try to assure your child that both you and the other coParent are wonderful and helpful to them.
• Suggested by Livingstone as well – before you meet up with your ex, have a discussion about the importance of meeting “in a spirit of cooperation and admit your shortcomings. Be honest what it will take to co-parent peacefully with your ex and try to keep your ego aside and think about what is best for your kids.”
• “Stop litigating,” Livingstone adds. He says that adults in litigation “cannot possibly coParent,” as they are in a space of less or no trust, which is a coParenting key.
• End the arguments of scheduling times the kids can speak with the other parent. Allow these times to be very flexible. It will decrease the child’s anxiety.
• Listen carefully to your child and take inventory of this. If he or she tells you to listen more, that’s an indicator.
• If your child does not wish to spend time with you, do not punish, Livingstone advises. Ask them to “describe their feelings” and that you will not be upset.
• coParents should think about going to counseling for themselves, individually and for the children helps.
Bob Livingstone is a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker with a private practice in San Francisco. He is a member of the National Association of Social Workers and an associate member of The California Association for Marriage and Family Therapists. His work is featured on Mediate.com, and this article was inspired by his teachings.