Putting Kids Before Conflict

Managing a co-parenting relationship can be an intricate process, especially if the relationship once had with this person ended on bad or complicated terms. Bitterness and conflict can quickly get in the way of co-parents putting their focus on raising their kids together and move it towards arguing and hurting each other.

What co-parents in this situation may not realize is that when their focal point is not centered on finding ways to cooperate and parent together, their conflict is affecting their kids negatively. Putting kids before conflict is an important parenting strategy to practice. Understanding how kids are affected by parental disputes and working to improve communication can help to support co-parents in doing so.

The Effect of Parental Conflict on Kids

While it's true that all parents face moments of friction now and then, conflict handled with hostility has a different effect on kids when compared to disputes dealt with in a cordial manner. In a situation where parents are constantly at odds with each other and the conflict spills out in front of the kids, the adverse effects that this may have on the children include a range of both behavioral and psychological issues. Aggression, anxiety, depression, and fear are just a few effects parental conflict has on kids.

Externalizing these emotional effects is common, and they may manifest in all areas of your child's life like at school or in their friendships. It's also common for kids to carry these experiences into adulthood. Feelings of guilt and insecurity can tamper with a child's ability to make and maintain healthy relationships later in life. 

Strategies for Putting Kids Before Conflict 

Whether or not you find yourself consistently in conflict with your co-parent, it is always important to always put your kids and their needs before all else. So what are some ways in which co-parents can put kids before conflict? Working to improve communication is one place to start.

Using tools like those on the OurFamilyWizard website (OFW®) to facilitate communication can help co-parents from letting their personal conflicts get in the way of upholding the well-being of their children. Here are five strategies to help co-parents improve communication and ways that OFW® can help support these approaches.

Agree to keep your kids away from conflict.

It isn't healthy to put your kids in the middle of your arguments; even allowing them to overhear or oversee what you're saying can be harmful. Use a secure method of communication that restricts your conversations to a space that keeps it from your children's ears or eyes.

With OFW®, both parents have access to information ranging from expense reports and messaging tools to vital medical details for each child. Also, parents have the option to invite their kids to have limited access to view the family schedule and send and receive their own messages. This provides a secure location for parents and kids to check in with each other when they cannot be together while still keeping parent-to-parent communication private from the children. 

Keep communication well organized.

Disorganization can quickly lead to confusion and frustration, which could just lead to more conflict. Use tools to aid you in organizing information based on topic. For example, details about the family schedule should be reviewed in a calendar setting as opposed to long, unformatted messages.

OFW® templates and tools are built to mitigate conflict by focusing parent communication on the matter at hand. For example, when discussing a change to the parenting schedule, parents will use the Trade/Swap tool in the calendar to propose and plan this adjustment. Each request can even include an offer to trade parenting time; this gives parents a chance to negotiate changes to the schedule. Approved changes will adjust automatically on the calendar without affecting the rest of the schedule. If a parent does not approve a request or instead makes a counteroffer, the history of each request is documented thoroughly.

Make relevant information available.

Hoarding vital details about the kids like medical or insurance information can be harmful, especially when important details are not accessible in an emergency situation. Inputting this data in one central, secure location that both parents can access helps to prevent this from occurring.

OFW®'s information bank provides parents with a space to keep medical information, school schedules, and child care data in one secure place. Parents have equal access to this information from anywhere with an internet connection. This makes it simple to pull up any specific detail the moment it is needed.

Be aware of your tone.

The tone in which something is said can greatly impact the way it is received. ToneMeter in the OFW® message board will analyze each message that a parent composes, flag emotionally-charged phrases, and provide feedback about how the tone of those phrases might be received by the other parent. This gives the author a chance to reframe the tone of their message before sending. Using this tool, parents may avoid conflict by having a better understanding of how their messages are being received.

Enlist help from professionals.

When co-parents cannot end the conflict on their own, a professional may be able to help. Someone such as a mediator or another neutral third party professional could help to teach co-parents problem-solving and better communication skills.

On OFW®, parents can allow their family law or mental health practitioners to oversee the correspondence without having to forward it to them separately. Having communication monitored may also encourage parents to discuss matters of conflict more amicably than they may do so otherwise.

Putting kids before parental conflict is important on multiple levels. Beyond how it can help save kids from experiencing emotional turmoil, having strategies in place to improve communication will make it easier to keep information clear and organized while also shielding kids from any conflict that may arise. The OurFamilyWizard website provides a space for communication that can help co-parents do these things in one convenient, neutral location. Move towards a better way of communicating and putting kids before conflict with OFW®.