Many parents ask about how to raise a child with a co-parent who is “high-conflict” – preoccupied with blaming others, extreme behaviors, all-or-nothing thinking, and unmanaged emotions.
If you are a parent who is asking this question, it is very important to avoid being accused of “bad-mouthing” the other parent, by speaking negatively about him or her to the children and providing too much information about adult issues, such as a court case. On the other hand, you want to protect your children from the blaming and uncontrolled behavior of the high-conflict co-parent, and to provide the children with coping skills and help them not blame themselves.
Here are two ways to deal with both concerns, while helping your children to be resilient throughout their lives:
1. Teach Four Big Skills. Rather than talking to the kids about the “high-conflict” co-parent (and you should never use that term around the children), talk about “four big skills for life”:
• flexible thinking
• managed emotions
• moderate behaviors
• checking ourselves to see if we’re using these skills regularly
Tell your kids that these are four big skills that will help them with friends, help them get a good job someday, and may help them be community leaders someday, if they want. Then, in daily life you can ask them if they noticed other people who used these skills in solving problems, or if you used any of these four skills in solving a problem.
You can explain this to a child of almost any age, starting at least at age four, if you put it in simple terms.
2. Help Your Child Cope with Your Co-Parent. Now, since you have taken an educational approach to teaching these four big skills, you can start using them when things happen with your co-parent. Suppose he or she was unreasonably angry at your child, and the child came to you to complain. Rather than saying that your co-parent is a jerk, you could say: “Remember, some people have a harder time managing their emotions than other people. When you’re ready, let’s do some flexible thinking about ways you might deal with situations like that in the future. In the meantime, we can manage our own emotions, even though some other people can’t.”
Learn more about helping children from divorced homes in Bill Eddy’s book, Don’t Alienate the Kids: Raising Resilient Children While Avoiding High Conflict Divorce CLICK.Eddy Dont Alienate The Kids
By teaching the four big skills for life, your child can learn lessons that will last into adulthood. __________________________________________________________________________
Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq., is an attorney, therapist and mediator in San Diego, California. Co-founder of High Conflict Institute, he is author of several books on dealing with high-conflict personalities. For more visit www.highconflictinstitute.com.