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Resetting Unhealthy Co-Parenting Boundaries

How to reset unhealthy habits and boundaries in shared parenting.


While most co-parenting situations are bound to involve disagreements and difficulties, some co-parents may experience heightened conflict based on how they interact. For those in high-conflict co-parenting situations, parents may endure frequent, recurring challenges that become taxing. On the other hand, even friendly co-parents may experience tension due to one or both people adopting unhealthy boundaries.

Many causes can lead to you or your ex developing unhealthy co-parenting tendenciesMissing your kids while they're with their other parent or experiencing other co-parenting triggers can lead to pushed or ignored boundaries. No matter what causes them, co-parents should reset unhealthy boundaries to preserve their well-being and protect their children from conflict.

How can I reset co-parenting boundaries?

If you've recognized unhealthy boundaries, accepting the need for a reset is a significant first step toward facilitating a smoother co-parenting relationship. Depending on your ability to communicate with your ex, you can discuss suspected pain points together or address what you can change individually to create healthy co-parenting boundaries.

Unhealthy co-parenting boundaries are commonly present in:

  • Communication patterns
  • Custody and visitation expectations
  • Privacy preferences

Regardless of which issues you or your co-parent are dealing with, it's essential to remember that everything you do should be in your children's best interests. If you still need to initially communicate your preferred boundaries, share them with your co-parent to ensure they understand your perspective and expectations. Take a moment to assess your feelings, identify opportunities for improvement, and look for reasonable solutions that benefit everyone involved.
 

Frustrated teenage girl

Communication

A healthy co-parenting relationship relies on setting and following communication expectations. A breakdown in communication, whether it be a misunderstanding or a brief lapse, can quickly lead to co-parents communicating in an unhealthy way that affects themselves and their children.

To start determining communication preferences, co-parents should ask themselves these questions:

  • What is the minimum and maximum expected frequency of contact?
  • ​What are our preferred and alternate methods of communication?
  • What subject matter is acceptable for discussion?
  • How will we communicate in disagreements?

Receiving one response every five days can be just as annoying as receiving five messages within one minute. Leaning toward the outer extremes of an expected range can be perceived as disrespecting your ex's boundaries. If your ex sends too many messages, share that observation and reiterate your expectations. If your ex doesn't respond, consider adding a timeframe to your messages specifying when you would like an answer.

Some co-parents may prefer talking through a written method like texts or emails. In contrast, others lean toward in-person communication or phone or video calls. These preferences can also change when they want to connect with their children. Remind your co-parent of your preferred communication method based on your comfort level. If they start or continue communicating outside those mediums, send a message through your preferred outlet to share your discomfort.

Having difficult conversations and discussing topics unrelated to the children can make one or both co-parents uncomfortable. While addressing changes to your children's schedules, behaviors, and preferences is essential, including personal details in these discussions can overstep personal boundaries and fuel further conflict. Keep conversations focused on your children while understanding that sharing irrelevant information or adding personal jabs will do more harm than good for yourselves and your children.
 

Frustrated couple

Custody and visitation

Because custody schedules and visitation arrangements are dictated in court orders, it is crucial that you and your co-parent follow them consistently to avoid legal consequences. While you both may accept a certain degree of flexibility in custody exchanges or visitation schedules, you should agree on how understanding you can be toward temporary or one-time changes.

Even though you can if you both choose to, you and your co-parent aren't required to tell each other about what your children do in either person's care. Unless a parent violates the law or places a child in physical, mental, or emotional danger, what they do in their parenting time is up to their discretion.

A common unhealthy boundary may involve you or your co-parent intrusively asking about what your children are doing or questioning the other parent's choices. On the other end of the spectrum, a co-parent continuing to cause parenting time failures breaks healthy boundaries and legal requirements.

One of the best ways to establish healthier boundaries is to consider each parent's comfort level with certain activities. While one parent may not like their co-parent's relatives or new significant other, demanding that the children stay away from them while in the other parent's custody is unreasonable and can spur further conflict.

If you know your co-parent would have concerns and want to reassure them of your children's safety, you can share details about the visit so they are informed. Telling each other about upcoming travel plans, especially if they involve long distances, is another healthy practice that can help both parents feel more comfortable while their children are away.

Privacy

Depending on whether a co-parenting relationship has a healthy or toxic dynamic, there may be some details that one parent does not want to share with the other. This hesitancy to disclose details can be significantly heightened in co-parenting situations with a history of domestic violence or abuse. Regardless of the dynamic between co-parents, having healthy boundaries regarding personal information can reinforce trust and reassurance. Unless one parent is concerned about their children's safety and well-being, both parents have the right to maintain a degree of privacy as they see fit.

Personal information that co-parents may want to keep private includes:

  • Home or work addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Social media accounts
  • New relationships or partners
  • Details about friends or relatives 

Differences in personalities and preferences often contribute to divorce or separation, and it's crucial to set these differences aside for the sake of your children. Finding a healthy balance is essential for successful shared parenting, and co-parenting communication services can help parents establish and reinforce boundaries effectively.

TalkingParents provides a platform for parents to manage all things co-parenting in an accountable, secure manner. Whether your communication is pleasant or challenging, every interaction, message, and call within TalkingParents is saved on an Unalterable Record. If you struggle with harassment, a lack of responses, or other concerns that impact your shared parenting situation, you can work with a family law attorney and use Records as evidence to pursue a resolution in court.

 

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