FREE LIVE CLASS: 3 Skills To Get Your Kids To Listen
What experts say about toxic coparenting and how to manage it
When you are divorced or separated, coparenting can be one of the most difficult things you will ever have to do. It becomes even more difficult if your coparent is toxic.
Toxic coparenting can harm both you and your children. It can have long-term emotional consequences and even have an impact on your children’s physical health.
Read Time: 8 min
What is coparenting and what is toxic coparenting
When one parent attempts to undermine the other parent or uses the children as pawns in their own personal game, this is referred to as toxic coparenting. They may disparage the other parent in front of the children, refuse to collaborate on parenting decisions, or even attempt to turn the children against the other parent.
This can be extremely harmful to the children, leading to trust issues, low self-esteem, and difficulties forming relationships in the future.
Toxic parenting consequences
Toxic parenting is extremely harmful to the child. It can refer to how the parents interact with one another or how they interact with or use their child. Toxic parenting can include emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse, as well as neglect. It can lead to low self-esteem, difficulties forming relationships, and academic difficulties in the child.
Toxic parents frequently struggle with setting boundaries and have very strict and unrealistic expectations for their children. This can leave the child feeling overwhelmed and unsupported, leading to issues such as anxiety, depression, or even suicidal thoughts.
How do I know if my coparent is toxic?
There are some warning signs that your co-parent is toxic. If they are constantly criticizing the other parent, attempting to control them, or using the children as a bargaining chip, they are most likely toxic. High-conflict personalities are toxic to interact with because they make everything more difficult than necessary.
Characteristics of a toxic coparent
Blame – Your co-parent holds you responsible for the divorce and any problems with the children. They do not accept responsibility for their actions. They are so focused on blaming you for everything that they are unable to reflect on themselves.
Bad–mouthing – Your co-parent trashes you in front of the children. They may say things about you that are false. They do this for a variety of reasons, including: they use the children for therapy; they believe they are “protecting” the children by telling them how horrible you are; and your ex cannot bear the thought of your children liking you more.
Extreme behavior – Your co-parent has no concept of moderation. Everything your ex does is extreme and chaotic: threats, hostile emails, yelling, and accusing you of negligence for minor parenting mistakes. They create so much chaos during drop-offs that your children struggle to transition between households.
Infractions of the law or other authority figures – Your co-parent wouldn’t know what a boundary was if it hit them in the face. They attempt to instruct you on how to run your household. They contact the children several times during your visitation schedule. You’ve lost authority over your children because your ex sends the message that they don’t have to follow your rules.
If you have any concerns that your co-parent is toxic, you should talk to someone who can help you manage the situation.
Coparenting with a toxic ex
It can be difficult to coparent effectively if you are currently in a relationship with a toxic ex-partner. We must remember first and foremost the child’s well-being and keep the child’s best interests in mind.
Setting boundaries with your ex is the best way to deal with this situation. One approach is to treat your current relationship with them as if it were a business partnership with specific and documented agreements.
You should also agree on parenting decisions ahead of time to avoid conflict. For example, you can both create a shared electronic document with any situations that you both brainstorm together that may arise in the future on subjects on which you both need to agree or topics on which you both need to be on the same page.
Communicate your agreed-upon strategies for dealing with these situations and write them in the document. The document will then be available for you both to refer to, making decision making easier. You must state unequivocally that you will not tolerate any disparaging of the other parent or attempts to manipulate the children. If your ex engages in inappropriate behavior, you may need to seek legal counsel to protect yourself and your children.
Set healthy boundaries
Toxic coparenting can be extremely harmful to children and result in long-term emotional issues. If you’re dealing with toxic coparenting, it’s critical to take action and set healthy boundaries.
Setting boundaries, according to experts, is one of the best ways to deal with a toxic coparent. These limits should be clear and concise, and they must be strictly enforced. You may also need to limit communication with the toxic coparent, particularly if things get heated.
It’s also important to remember that you are not responsible for the behavior of the other parent. Don’t let the toxic coparent make you feel responsible or guilty for their actions. You are only accountable for your own actions. Be adaptable, even if it is difficult!! Remember that you are acting in the best interests of the children. Leave the children out of your adult disagreements, arguments, or decisions.
How to set boundaries with a toxic coparent
Have a plan
Setting boundaries with a toxic coparent is best accomplished by communicating clearly what behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable. You should also have a plan in place for what to do if your ex violates your boundaries.
For example, if they begin manipulating the children or badmouthing the other parent, you may need to revoke their access privileges. It is critical to maintain firm and consistent boundaries so that your co-parent understands what is expected of them.
If you’re going through a divorce, you should learn how to stop toxic coparenting. Toxic coparenting can lead to a never-ending cycle of fighting, manipulation, and gaslighting. If you have children, they will bear the consequences.
What experts say
So, how do you deal with a toxic coparent? Experts advise the following:
1. Do not interact with them, unless necessary. This means you shouldn’t argue or try to persuade them to see your point of view. You will only reinforce their behavior and make matters worse.
2. Maintain clear and concise communication. Avoid rehashing old arguments or discussing topics that will only lead to conflict. Keep the conversation focused on the children and their care.
3. Establish boundaries for what you are willing to do for them. Set boundaries and say no if they are constantly asking for favors or attempting to manipulate you. You are not required to justify your decisions to them, nor do you require their approval.
4. Don’t give them any personal information. This includes information about your relationships, finances, or anything else that is private. They have no right to this information and I know it’s hurtful but they may just use it against you later.
5. Establish and maintain healthy boundaries in your own life. Setting limits on how much time you spend with them, what activities you do together, and how much access they have to your home and belongings are all part of this. Allow them to cross these lines, or they will take advantage of you.
It can be difficult to maintain these boundaries, especially if the other parent is particularly manipulative or aggressive. But keep in mind that you are doing this for the sake of your children. You can ensure that your children have a stable and healthy home life even during difficult times by establishing healthy boundaries.
How to stop toxic coparenting
If you are struggling with toxic coparenting, you can take steps to prevent it from harming your relationship with your children and their development. The first step is to effectively communicate with your co-parent about which behaviors are acceptable and which are not.
You must also establish clear boundaries and consequences for crossing those boundaries. You may need to seek outside assistance to manage the situation if necessary. You can create a healthy and safe environment for your children while still maintaining a positive relationship with their other parent by taking these steps.
What to avoid
You are familiar with this person and are aware of their “hot buttons.” Don’t start a fight or choose topics that you know will irritate them just to get them riled up. Avoid emotional debates. If there are any emotionally triggering topics to discuss, try to do so via email. It gives both parties time to understand by re-reading several times before responding, if possible. There is also documentation of the conversation in case you need to refer back to it in the future.
Finally, remember that you deserve to have a healthy, happy relationship with your children. If you are in a toxic coparenting situation don’t be afraid to take precautions as outlined above to protect yourself and your children. Your own well-being and what is best for the kids is what is most important.
Please feel free to browse our resources.
And feel free to contact me if you want to learn more about who I am and what I do.
(c)2022, I Shine Brite
All rights reserved
No claim to copyright is made for original U.S. Government Works.