A typical divorce is traumatic for everyone involved. Drama is the fuel that stokes the flames of divorce and separation with a bully. A co-parent bullying the other, plays itself out in a number of ways; insult, insinuation, inquisitions, bossiness, or put-downs, which all characterize the hallmarks of dealing with a bully.
How can you effectively traverse this when trying to co-parent effectively?
Part of this process is making sure the children feel safe and loved. While they will always need and desire the love of both of their parents, they may need extra assurances from the non-bully co-parent. This assumes the children are not experiencing any bullying themselves. If the children are victims of bullying from their parents, this is a toxic scenario and they need to be lifted out of it immediately.
Many people believe that successful co-parenting involves a secret formula that will transform a nightmare ex-spouse into a garden-variety human being. This is highly unlikely, high-conflict people have entrenched personality structures that cause them to blame other people. Otherwise, you will spend your life breaking your own heart by having your well-intentioned attempts to co-parent met with vitriol.
Your co-parenting approach takes on a specific strategy that keeps the communication channel concise and clean. It focuses on decision making that is based on what is best for the child, not the history of conflict or appeasing the other co-parent or anything else. This effort is not about how you can heal or transform the bully in your life, it is about being mindful of what positive change you can enable and not fall back into old patterns of emotions (ex. exhausted, depressed, anxious, etc.) and actions.
There are a few other things you will need to actively manage with this co-parenting situation;
Focus on what is important.
Through it all, remain steadfast on doing what is best for your child. By asking yourself this, you will have a clear ‘northstar’ when dealing with the conflict, and emotions. Even in the midst of a ‘bully blow-out’ just breath through it, remind yourself it’s all okay and remind yourself that this behavior is why you’re not together anymore.
Know and express what is ‘okay’ and ‘not okay’ with you.
Children learn a tremendous amount about what it means to be an adult simply by watching you. Understanding they are modeling both you and your co-parent, you need to be mindful of this and watch behavior patterns both with your co-parent and your children and learn to express in clear and concise terms what is ‘okay’ and ‘not okay’ in your children and in your life.
Avoid needless apologies.
Don’t apologize for disagreeing. Don’t apologize for doing what you feel is right. Stand up for yourself. Be brief, informative, friendly and firm (B.I.F.F.) with your co-parent. This BIFF technique is proven when dealing with high-conflict people and situations.
We realize co-parenting is a bit of an experiment for most couples. The intent is always good and usually in the best interest of the child but the outcome is determined by your collective co-parenting efforts. Understanding you are driving with one eye closed we know it is normal and healthy to check-in on a regular basis to determine whether or not it is working and what adjustments to make.
Checking in with a high-conflict bully may not be an easy order but keep in mind raising another bully (or victim) is not an option. If for any reason you sense your kid is becoming a victim of any bullish behavior, you must not hesitate to act.