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How do I co-parent with a toxic ex?

Maya Griffiths

Maya Griffiths

Finding yourself splitting from- and having to co-parent with- a toxic ex can be a relentlessly difficult ordeal. Not only that, but it can continue for years while your child grows up.

The frustration and anger that you need to cope with while maintaining a calm front for the kids is a tricky balance to strike. Plus, there can be never ending challenges in trying to bring up a child while struggling to get along.

So, how can you best deal with a toxic ex? Are there ways to protect yourself from stress while also parenting effectively?

Thankfully, there are.

The benefits of co-operative co-parenting

Not only is peaceful co-parenting best for both you and your ex partner, but it also helps your child. The stress that affects children when they are aware of issues between their parents hits them hard. Children exposed to parental conflict grow up with issues around depression, loneliness and intimacy. They can even feel wrongly to blame for the problems, because they are the inadvertent source of difficulty between you.

So, what’s the answer?

A great solution to toxic co-parenting situations is parallel parenting.

Parallel parenting differs from traditional co-parenting in that it avoids face to face and phone communication between ex’s. Both parents maintain their intention to parent effectively, while avoiding uncomfortable meetings and conversations with each other. The outcome, therefore, is best for all parties involved.

Parallel parenting shields children from distressing situations between their parents and puts their well-being first. It also shields both parents from stress and creates a more positive home environment.

How do we start parallel parenting?

  • The first step is to talk to your ex and suggest parallel parenting as a positive way to improve things. You can sell it to your ex by pointing out that you will no longer have to speak to each other.
  • Next, make a plan between you, including a schedule of how your child will spend their time. This will include a pick up and drop off schedule, holidays, Christmas and weekend arrangements, and a communication plan. This cant be changed without written agreement from both parents.
  • Develop a set plan for if a parent is ill or cannot make drop off etc.
  • Establish neutral drop off and pick up locations. Make sure it’s somewhere that your child can easily switch cars with their belongings.
  • Use the OurFamilyWizard app, which helps parents manage shared parenting schedules from different homes. Alternatively, you could use a notebook which is passed between you by your child, which has notes of any health issues, appointments, things to be aware of etc.

Still having to see someone you no longer wish to have in your life can be a miserable experience. However, when a child is involved, it’s best to work out a way to parent without the misery. Parallel parenting is a great way to find more calm in your life, and create peace for your child too.

Want to talk to others about co-parenting with an ex? Take a look at our forum.

or sign up to our free Parenting after Separation course.

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