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DALL·E 2024-01-12 16.03.45 - An abstract illustration depicting the concept of divorce, us

Co-Parenting: Managing Responses to Retaliatory Actions from a Co-Parent

Navigating through a separation or post-divorce period, the challenge of dealing with retaliatory behaviors from your child's other parent can be highly stressful. Such behaviors can stem from various reasons, including a misguided desire to maintain a negative connection or dissatisfaction with the perceived fairness of the parenting plan.

While many parents can overcome personal pain to prioritize their children's needs, some struggle to establish a positive co-parenting relationship. These individuals may resort to passive-aggressive or directly vindictive actions. To address such challenges, it's essential to consider proactive strategies:

1. Preemptive Measures: To mitigate potential issues, it can be beneficial to include provisions addressing parental behavior in the parenting plan before finalization. If there are concerns about a co-parent's tendencies, consulting with an attorney to incorporate clauses mandating co-parenting therapy or mediation can provide a warning from the outset, outlining consequences for undesirable behavior.

2. Acceptance: Recognizing that you cannot change the other person, especially when emotions run high due to child involvement, is crucial. While it may seem evident, the desire to alter your co-parent for the sake of your child can lead to endless arguments. Acceptance allows you to focus on your reactions and decisions, alleviating stress and enabling a calm and constructive approach.

3. Setting Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries for interactions with your co-parent, expressing them calmly. When boundaries are crossed, strive to respond without emotional engagement. Practicing techniques that distance you from emotional reactions can help maintain composure.

4. Don't Take It Personally: Individuals with high-conflict personalities may project their emotional issues onto others. Disengaging from conflicts and understanding that their issues are not your own can prevent unnecessary stress and preserve emotional well-being.

5. Techniques for Dealing With Retaliatory Behaviors:


  • Keep Correspondence Minimal: Limit communication to essential information about your children, avoiding unnecessary opinions or narratives.

  • Parallel Parenting: In cases of vindictiveness, focus on parallel parenting, conducting your parenting with minimal contact or input from your co-parent.

  • Communicate in Writing: Maintain a written record of communication, whether through texts or emails. Keep all interactions polite and business-like, creating a favorable impression in case legal interventions are required.

  • When the heat is too high and you find yourself over-stressed by a message or an email: Pause immediately from what you are doing, and create self-distance by considering events from an external perspective that is different than your own, such as the perspective of a person that you were talking to, or the perspective of an external observer who watched an interaction that you were involved in. Imagine a good friend or a sibling experiencing the same situation, and what you would advise them to do.

Effectively managing retaliatory behaviors involves a combination of proactive measures, emotional resilience, and strategic communication. By implementing these techniques, you can foster a healthier environment for your children and navigate co-parenting challenges more effectively.


Claire Colomb - December 2023

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