Here is some helpful advice for the parents, family, friends and professionals in the lives of high conflict coParents. This advice will help everyone keep the situation child-centric.
Parents: Remember that emotions are contagious. Make your best efforts not to expose your child to your intense anger, fear, hurt, sadness and other negative emotions about the other parent – even about an HCP parent. When you do (because no one’s perfect), make positive comments about the other parent to keep things balanced. Avoid believing that feelings are decisions. If your child is anxious, remind him or her that feelings are not harmful and reduce with time. This is part of resilience.
Family and Friends: Be careful not to absorb the contagious emotions of those involved in a potentially high-conflict divorce. Check yourself to see if you are getting “hooked” by negative emotions. Acknowledge that these are upsetting times and that emotions can reduce and heal. Be reassuring, while gently focusing back on problem-solving when your family member or friend is ready. Let the children know that you understand these are stressful times, but feelings aren’t decisions and reduce with time.
Professionals: Teach your clients that emotions are contagious – your client’s and your own. Watch out for getting emotionally “hooked” by your client’s pain, fear, and anger. Also, watch out for passing your frustration on to your clients, who may pass them on to the children. Educate other professionals and the courts about emotional contagion, so that they understand that everyone’s expressed emotions may be even more important than what they say.
Excerpt from Don’t Alienate the Kids! Raising Resilient Children While Avoiding High-Conflict Divorce. By Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq. Published by HCI Press.