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Grounding Techniques for Co-Parents

Grounding is a helpful habit for staying calm and centered during tough times. Learn how to apply grounding techniques to co-parenting.

Amber Andrews Marriage and Family Therapist Octave 

Co-parenting is tough enough as it is—you're trying to work together with someone whose views or values might not match yours anymore. And when you throw in dealing with someone who's high conflict or narcissistic, it can feel impossible. That's where grounding techniques come in handy. They're like your hidden tools for keeping calm and maintaining stability, for both you and your kids.  

Grounding isn't just a trendy term; it's a helpful habit for staying calm and centered in tough times. It's about using different methods to bring ourselves back to the present and feel more in control. What makes grounding unique is that it can be done without any tangible items to carry or remember. You can do it anywhere, anytime.  

So, what are these magical grounding techniques? They're simple practices that help you stay in the moment and cope with stress. It could be anything from taking deep breaths to focusing on your senses—like feeling the ground beneath your feet or noticing the sounds around you.  

Father holding daughter

Benefits of grounding:  

  1. Managing emotions: Dealing with a high-conflict or narcissistic co-parent can stir up strong feelings. Grounding techniques help us control these emotions, so we can think before we react.  
  2. Putting children first: Grounding reminds us to focus on what's best for our children instead of getting caught up in conflict with the co-parent. This helps us make choices that benefit our kids and improve our co-parenting relationship.  
  3. Easing stress: Disagreements with a co-parent can be really stressful. Grounding techniques give us ways to calm down and feel better mentally and emotionally, even when things are tough.  
  4. Getting stronger: Practicing grounding regularly makes us stronger and more able to handle co-parenting challenges. It helps us bounce back and deal with difficult situations with more confidence.  

Why Grounding is crucial with narcissistic or high-conflict co-parents:  

When you're dealing with someone who's high conflict or narcissistic, things can get intense real quick. Grounding techniques give you a way to step back and take a breather when things start to feel overwhelming. They help you stay focused on what's important—like making sure your kids feel safe and loved—even when you're dealing with someone who's making things difficult. In such situations, grounding becomes not just beneficial but crucial for several reasons:  

  • Setting limits: Grounding techniques reinforce boundaries, stopping us from being overwhelmed by the co-parent's attempts to manipulate or stir up emotions.  
  • Protecting mental health: Co-parenting with a narcissist or someone who thrives on conflict can really take a toll on our emotional well-being. Grounding techniques act like a safety net, helping us stay mentally and emotionally stable even when things get chaotic.  
  • Teaching by example: When we use grounding techniques, we show our kids healthy ways to handle tough situations. We're demonstrating resilience and strength even in challenging circumstances.  
Woman meditating

Example of a grounding technique: The 5-4-3-2-1 Exercise  

One effective grounding technique that can be easily incorporated into daily life is the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise. This exercise engages all five senses, grounding us in the present moment, and fostering a sense of calm. Here's how to do it:  

  1. Acknowledge 5 things you can see: Look around and name five things you see in your immediate environment. Focus on details such as color, shape, and texture.  
  2. Identify 4 things you can touch: Pay attention to the sensation of touch. Notice four things you can touch nearby. It could be the texture of your clothing, the smooth surface of a table, or the warmth of sunlight on your skin.  
  3. Recognize 3 things you can hear: Tune into the sounds around you. Identify three distinct sounds you can hear, whether it's the hum of appliances, birds chirping outside, or the rustle of leaves in the wind.  
  4. Notice 2 things you can smell: Bring your awareness to your sense of smell. Take note of two smells in your surroundings, whether pleasant or neutral. It could be the scent of flowers, freshly brewed coffee, or simply the freshness of the air.  
  5. Focus on 1 thing you can taste: Lastly, pay attention to your sense of taste. Notice one taste in your mouth, whether it's from a recent meal, a drink, or simply the lingering sensation of toothpaste.  

By using all five senses in this exercise, you keep yourself right in the here and now. It's like building a little bubble of calm in the middle of all the craziness. So, whenever things start to feel too much, just take a moment to tune in and give yourself that breather you need.  

In the rollercoaster of co-parenting, where tensions are high and conflicts are common, grounding techniques are like our lifeline. They give us strength and stability when the going gets tough, helping us be there for ourselves and our kids. By using these techniques regularly, we're teaching our kids how to deal with tough times in a positive way. So, when everything feels chaotic, just remember: grounding keeps us steady, guiding us through the storm and helping us make the best decisions for our family.

TalkingParents blogs are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Always consult with a qualified attorney regarding legal matters.

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