Protecting Kids from a Combative Ex

Child looks at the swearing parentsAfter a divorce, interacting with your spouse can be a source of frustration. You went through the end of a marriage, the divorce process, negotiating the terms of the divorce, and yet you still have to have regular contact with your spouse due to shared child custody.

Unfortunately, sometimes an ex can be so difficult that they become a source of stress for you and your children. If you find yourself dealing with a difficult or combative ex, your main priority will be to protect your children from the tension.

The best way to do this is to monitor the way you communicate with your ex. To deal with a combative ex and provide a healthy environment for your children, employ the following tips:

  • Keep communication brief and transparent. When talking to your ex, keep the conversation factual-about where and when to pick up the children, etc.- and never emotional, especially in front of the children. By engaging only in factual communication, you can stop emotions from entering the conversation all together and prevent friction before it starts.
  • Communicate in private. Not only does this prevent children from witnessing any arguments, but communicating through writing or email provides your attorney with documentation if needed.
  • Don’t talk about money. Money can be the biggest source of tension after divorce, and it can be stressful and confusing to a child if they are exposed to money talk. It may be necessary to talk to your attorney about wage garnishment, to help eliminate any disputes about child support or alimony altogether.
  • Don’t engage when you ex is combative or manipulative. If your ex responds with an attack, make sure you communicated everything you meant to, and do not respond. It is especially important to control yourself if you receive a combative email, text, or voicemail, and your children are present. Try not to let your children see you react negatively or lose your temper.
  • Recognize the ways your spouse tries to provoke or manipulate you. By recognizing the triggers that cause you to react, you can better prepare yourself for them by thinking of ways you can avoid getting sucked into combative interactions.
  • Be respectful of the custodial schedule. Children thrive on stability and predictable life routines, so resecting visitation and custody schedules will reduce stress for them. Also, asking favors from your ex such as changing pick-up times or switching weekends may be held against you in the future by your ex as a way to create conflict.
  • Be respectful of custodial time. Do not interrupt when you child is spending time with your ex by constantly calling and checking in. Be supportive of their relationship by limiting yourself to one call per day, which will reduce resentment from your ex and nurture your child’s bond with their parent.
  • Be as cordial as possible, especially around your children. Your kids will notice if you are warm, respectful, and genuine to your ex, and it will make them feel more safe and stress-free.
  • Focus on your own life and your own time with your kids. Try not to concern yourself with what your spouse is doing with their lives, or when they may try to be combative again. Ultimately, you cannot control this, and worrying about it will stress you out even more. If you focus on loving your children and providing the best possible environment for them, even the most difficult ex cannot affect that.