May 8

Can I Co-Parent with a High-Conflict Parent?


Many parents wonder if it's ever possible to co-parent with someone who is high-conflict. The short answer is, yes! The long answer is that it takes work, building consciousness and strength, and requires a shift in yourself

While this can be confusing to hear, because many parents assume their high-conflict coparent has to be the one to put in the work, co-parenting with a high-conflict partner is a challenging experience. You may find times where it seems impossible, almost. To sum it up, if they do not see themselves as a problem, them they won't see a problem that they need to fix. So, where does that leave you?

With you! There are several key tips and strategies to ensure you can co-parent to the best of your ability, with a high-conflict parent who is likely unwilling to put in the work. 

1. Re-define 'Co-Parenting'

Many parents think that if they have a high-conflict co-parent, that it is nearly impossible to co-parent, in the literal sense. If your co-parent is creating chaos, it may never be butterflies and rainbows all of the time. And that's ok! Redefine what an ideal co-parenting relationship would look like with the other parent. But don't draw yourself short. Remember, we have the power to control how we show up, and this can be a good and bad thing! If we mirror the way they show up, chaos continues. If we mirror how we want them to show up, there is the opportunity for shifting on their end. More on that later.

2. Focus on the Children

You may be thinking, well 'duh!' Of course my focus is on the children. Yet often parents who struggle to co-parent all the time, find themselves so wrapped up in the chaos that they loose focus on why they are attempting to coparent in the first place: their kids! If you ever get off track, or find yourself wrapped up in the conflict, remind yourself what matters most when in an argument with your co-parent. Put the issue into perspective and learn to let go of things that are simply not worth the fight. Now, that is not the same thing as letting them get their way. But there will be times that you may get yourself worked up over your opinion on something that isn't really a dealbreaker or cause for a drawn-out argument, rather co-parents who argue tend to want to win than anything else. 

3. Create a Parenting Plan

Establishing a clear parenting plan can help minimize disagreements and misunderstandings when something is set in stone. You can refer back to it, remind your co-parent (and maybe even yourself at times), and is something that eases a lot of unnecessary worry. Be specific about schedules, routines, and decision-making processes. Establish boundaries. Review and update the plan as necessary, yet only if it is absolutely necessary. If you're struggling with even creating one, seek support & guidance from a mediator or coach.

4. Communication is Key

Keep communication with your co-parent respectful and conscious. Avoid engaging in personal attacks, passive remarks or commentary; catch yourself when engaging in the conflict. It can be easy to get triggered, defensive, and react to their remarks - invest in supportive courses to help you learn and practice conscious communication to prevent a never-ending cycle of chaotic communication. Don't fight fire with fire or add fuel to their flames, the fire will only get bigger- I promise you. 

5. Seek More Consistent Support

Dealing with a high-conflict co-parent can be emotionally draining. If you find yourself overwhelmed and at a loss, seek support from those trained to understand the dynamic you're faced with. This could be for a period of time to help ground you with what it takes to know how to navigate the situation in the longterm. Maintain self care, and receive emotional support from friends & family to help manage stress & maintain a positive outlook. Letting their conflict get the better of you only makes the situation worse, not better- and will worsen the situation in the longterm if not nipped in the bud.

Remember, co-parenting with a high-conflict partner is not easy, but it is still possible to create a healthy and stable environment for your children. By focusing on the children, creating a clear plan, communicating effectively, setting boundaries, and seeking the right support, you can successfully navigate this challenging situation.

For one-on-one guidance, consider working with a Co-Parenting Coach to help guide you to a productive solution. It's hard, until it isn't - because once you know, then it's easy.


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  1. Dear Dorcy
    I have a really bad situation. My ex partner has had my child since he was three after making me emotionally I’ll.he has always coercively controlled me and cruelly controlled my relationship with my child who is now 14.
    Unfortunately he was physically abusive for years with my son , a headmistress at his junior school reported concerns. However my child then retracted his statement. A year and a half ago my son confided in me the on going abuse and had run away to me in tears often lvhad logged the abuse incidents for a year. All agencies involved

    1. Hi Johanna, my team can direct you to in-depth, guided coaching support to learn how to best navigate your situation and take proactive action. -Dorcy

    1. I see you had a strategy call with my team last week. If you are ready to move forward with our work and guidance, please touch base with your strategist! Congratulations on wanting to take proactive action for the sake of your child.

  2. it has been truly frustrating, trying to coparent with mine. He’s very hostile and demanding. This has helped me. Thank you.

  3. I used to think it was impossible. I have a hostile coparent who always wants to get their way. Naturally i thought this would always be the case. I have been following Dorcy’s work for awhile now and it has really helped a lot. I’ve used a lot of the tactics and tips she suggests and it has actually helped me stand my ground instead of feeling walked over.

    1. Hi Paula, while we understand how tough trying to co-parent with a high-conflict person can be, it doesn’t mean having to co-parent with them in the literal sense. It just means doing your best to show up in the most conscious manner, which in turn allows them to show up differently. A complete lack of communicate means you cannot co-parent either, since your child is then left with 2 parents who will not parent together, which is still harmful. It is about creating boundaries, conscious communication, and doing what you have to do since you have children together.

    2. How do you expect to resolve issues with your co-parent, if you aren’t ever in communication with them? We understand it can be very frustrating to communicate with high-conflict people, yet the solution isn’t to eliminate communication altogether, rather learn to consciously respond, control your triggers and emotions, and remember your children are at stake.

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