When creating this list, I looked not only at times my ex-husband has been angry, but also myself and the clients I work with through their divorce.
1. Identify the Anger.
Whether the anger is direct or more indirect, when you feel your ex is angry or acting out, call him out. Identifying the anger is sometimes half the battle. As my very wise coach often says, “lean into it.”
2. Be Nice.
Regardless of the cause of anger, if you can put yourself in a place to co-parent with empathy, sympathy or even just separate yourself from his emotions you will find the situation so much easier to handle. By being nice you are not only modeling how you expect to be treated but deflating his ability to be angry.
3. Keep Your Kids Out of It.
Whether you need to be so drastic to keep your kids from leaving with him as you fear their safety, or just refuse to engage during exchanges do not subject the kids to his anger or a conflicted situation. Often the conflict is a reason you divorce in the first place.
4. Do Not Engage.
Misery loves company. More likely than not, he knows exactly what buttons to press. Don’t go there. Limit communication to kid logistics. Keep everything in writing. If you feel yourself reacting, walk away. Angry people are not able to be rational or otherwise have a productive conversation.
5. Modify or Enforce the Parenting Plan if Necessary.
The best parenting plans for angry parents are ones that limit any contact between the two of you. Parenting time should start on Fridays after school or mid-week after school depending on your parenting plan. For summer exchanges meet in a public place or arrange pick ups around the children’s activities that may not require any interaction. If he won’t keep to the parenting plan, pursue a contempt action and get the Court involved letting him know you won’t tolerate him not abiding by the schedule. If the parenting time schedule you have provides for too much interaction contact a lawyer about modifying the parenting plan.
6. Keep Your Life Out of Social Media.
Whether you seem to be getting along or things between the two of you are terrible, do not post pictures of you having fun with others, being out socially during your parenting time, or posting any weak moments for him to attack. I have clients who have supervised parenting or restricted time because of things on-line. If you think it doesn’t matter because you are not FB friends anymore and don’t follow each other, you are kidding yourself. Someone is always watching.
7. Don’t Make It Worse.
Sometimes we can escalate the anger by hitting the buttons we know he has. Sometimes we say things to the kids that get taken back misinterpreted or miscommunicated by the kids. Sometimes there is nothing we can do except stay away.
8. Keep Your Boundaries.
In many of the parenting plans I create for angry parents we add language for all communication and scheduling and matters related to the kids to happen through a 3rd party website. The two I am using most often right now are TalkingParents.com, and OurFamilyWizard.com. While the communication boundary seems to be the biggest issue, he doesn’t need to be in your house if it’s uncomfortable and you can take turns at the kids activities if being in the same place together creates drama for your kids.
9. Stand Up for Yourself.
Moms are the worst at compromising their schedules and more significantly, their self-worth, to avoid conflict. Sometimes it is very necessary to confront the conflict instead of avoiding it. Do not tolerate him yelling at you. Do not allow his needs to be more important than yours and definitely do not let him disrespect you in front or your children. Remember that every situation is a teaching moment for kids. They too need to learn to stand up for themselves, have self-respect and deal with conflict in a calm and confident manner.
10. Focus on the Children.
Both during and after marriage parenting is about the kids. It’s not about you. When you are focused on your children, his feelings, temper tantrums and negative reactions are not important. You do the best you can with the time you are with the children and know that nothing is more important than your love and happiness for them.
You may also like:
Healthy Co-Parenting: Are You Able To Put Your Children First?
10 Tips For Co-Parenting With An Angry Ex
Your Child And The Narcissistic Father