coParenting and Managing Emotions
Positive and negative emotions are both contagious and, especially in coParenting relationships, emotions can run high. These emotions get passed down to the children either from coParents, family members, and even professionals. It is important to pass on positive emotions instead of the negative ones that may surround you at this time. The following is advice for coParents, family members, and professionals.
coParents: 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 coParent – even if you are dealing with a high-conflict coParenting relationship. When you do find your emotions get the better of you (because no one is perfect), counter it by making positive comments about the other parent to keep things balanced. Avoid believing that feelings are decisions. If your child is anxious, remind them that feelings are not harmful and feelings can change with time. This is a way to teach your children resilience: “Right now things may not be great but this too shall pass and things will get better because we will work through it”.
Family and Friends: Be careful not to absorb the contagious emotions of those involved in a potentially high-conflict divorce. Check in with 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 final decisions.
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 onto your clients, who may pass them on to the children. Educate other professionals and the courts about the emotional contagion, so that they understand that everyone’s expressed emotions maybe even more important than what they say.