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Co-parenting and conflict: Tips for keeping the peace

Parents who divorce or separate continue to interact with each other as they raise their children. These interactions can be quite frequent when a child spends equal or near-equal time with each parent, which is becoming more common as parents and courts increasingly recognize the myriad ways that co-parenting can positively affect a child.

That said, parents can struggle to adjust to this type of arrangement. They may feel sad about dividing time with their child. They may also have negative feelings about each other, which can increase instances of conflict. However, there are ways to make it easier to parent separately but together.

  1. Embrace technological solutions. Several apps and programs can minimize conflict in co-parenting. Parents might utilize apps to keep track of shared calendars and expenses; they can communicate using special programs designed to record exchanges; they could also use programs to store and share important information and photos.
  2. Prioritize your child's experience. Situations such as exchanging custody or having both parents show up to a child's school play can be uncomfortable. However, think of it from your child's perspective. They can feel upset about leaving one parent or anxious about how their parents will interact with each other in public. If parents can focus on making the experience as comfortable as possible for their child, they can avoid conflict and keep the focus on showing a child love and support.
  3. Set firm boundaries. Being flexible and accommodating can be helpful in some parenting situations. However, establishing clear boundaries is crucial. For instance, be firm on decision-making responsibilities, exchange expectations and any parenting strategies to which you have both committed. Calling out these and other boundaries can make it easier for everyone to respect them, preventing conflicts from arising.
  4. Give it time. Current custody or parenting time schedules take time to adjust to. Try to be patient and give yourselves the chance to get comfortable and find a new normal. It can also be wise to remember the current arrangement is not necessarily going to be in place forever. In time, modifying existing orders may be appropriate.

Some conflict may be unavoidable as parents and children navigate shared parenting situations. However, these tips can help minimize these instances. 

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