When things get really tough, what can I do?

If you and the other parent are having an especially hard time with your co-parenting relationship, take a step back. Think about the role you played in the last dispute and try some of these strategies.

1. Don’t see each other in person. Have your conversations over the phone. You may be able to keep a record for court if using email or texting. Do not post family business on Facebook or other social media.

2. Make sure everything you say or put in writing is polite and to the point. Do not talk about anything other than your “parent-business.” Be clear in what you say.

3. Say something to show the other parent that you understand what he or she has said. Listen when the other parent is talking. When he or she is finished, say something like, “Let me make sure I understand. What I just heard you say is…” and then say what you heard.

4. Don’t push the other parent’s buttons. You probably know what makes the other parent angry, sad or upset. Don’t make the other parent feel bad on purpose.

5. Look for what is good. Try to see what the other parent is doing well. Sometimes, just letting the other parent know that you noticed goes a long way toward making a conversation easier.

6. Stop and ask yourself, Is this worth fighting over? There are many things to fight about if you look for them. You can’t argue about everything and still have time to make decisions. When you feel yourself starting to argue, stop. Ask yourself, “Is this worth fighting over? Will I even remember this in six months?”

7. Remember that your child loves the other parent. Your child’s other parent is an important person. Give him or her the respect your child would want you given.

8. Do what you say you will do. Keep your promises. Do this for your child. Don’t break promises, show up late or change plans just because the other parent does. You can only control yourself. You cannot control whether or not the other parent follows through on promises.

9. Keep detailed notes. Keep a record of meetings and conversations. If things are really bad, and they don’t improve, you may want to review these notes before talking to a mediator or attorney.

10. Use a mediator. There are times when problems are too big for two people to resolve on their own. If you and the other parent can’t get along, try to find a mediator to help you. For a list of mediators, go to http://www.TXmediator.org or contact your local dispute resolution center or visit the Access and Visitation Directory on www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.

11. If a mediator doesn’t help, see a lawyer. Generally, you will be able to work things out without going to court. Sometimes, though, the situation calls for some major intervention. Be sure to get the help you need. *

*This list is adapted from Mom’s House, Dad’s House: Making Two Homes for Your Child by Isolina Ricci, Ph.D. (New York, NY: Fireside Books, 1997) p. 108.