How to Deescalate Tension Between You and Your Ex

Your divorce is not the end of your relationship when you have kids in the mix. When you co-parent, you must still keep in contact in one way or another with your children's other parent.

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Your divorce is proof that you and ex aren't always on the same page. That can lead to tension, friction, and arguments.

It's important to know how to deescalate any tense conversations and situations for the sake of keeping your co-parenting relationship as civil as possible.

4 family therapy experts weigh in

We asked 4 family therapists for their best tips on how to make sure minor tension doesn't turn into major problems. Every parent's is different, but these tips might help keep your co-parenting relationship friendly.

Use technology as a buffer

Some people are just not compatible. Whenever they are in close proximity, they ruffle each other's feathers.

Does this sound like you and your ex?

Erin Asquith of Venus Therapy suggests you take advantage of available technologies to help eliminate surging emotions. She says, "If you and the ex can't speak calmly to each other — use email or text. It slows down the communication and hopefully reduces tension."

Just make sure to think before you text, and once you send your message, you cannot unsend it. Also keep in mind that sometime text outside of context can come off as abrasive, so if you choose to use this method, choose your words very carefully.

Request, don't command

The fastest way to go from slightly tense to full-blown nuclear is to start making a conscious effort about how you phrase concern over your ex's choices while watching your children.

You should already have a parenting plan that you both have agreed to. But, there's always more than one way to interpret something.

Mary Ann Aronsohn of Aronsohn Therapy recommends taking a question-based approach when discussing matters that might lead to a conflict. She specifies, "When you're tempted to criticize, accuse or complain, instead work to create either a polite request or a proposal."

She further explains that an easy way to do so is by starting your sentences with stems such as, "Would you be willing to…" and "I would really appreciate if you…"

Just remember, a polite request loses the polite factor when the tail of it is accusatory. And, a passive aggressive approach is not a polite request.

Values over isolated events

Nitpicking over minor one-time events is more trouble than it's worth. When you are discussing the ongoing co-parenting situation, it's important to focus on the goals.

Aricia E. Shaffer explains that instead of fighting over bedtime down to the minute, take a look at what's important to both of you. She says, "Remember that rules do not need to be exactly the same in both homes."

She continues, "Focus instead on values. What values do you want kids to leave home with? Respect, personal responsibility, independence, integrity, generosity? These are often easier to come up with and agree upon. Additionally, you can prioritize as many values as you'd like."

Another way to think about this is to not sweat the small stuff. You both have the goal of raising happy and healthy children, and when you focus on values instead of minor day-to-day occurrences, you have a better chance of achieving that goal.

Keep it close

At the end of the day, it's incredibly important to remember that the conflict, no matter how big or small, is between you and your ex. You need to keep it that way.

Marriage and Family Therapist Lisa Bahar details, "Avoid working through the children. Also, avoid including new spouses in parenting unless welcomed."

You may be tempted to use your children as a messenger or try to involve your new spouse who will undoubtedly take your side of the altercation, but doing either will cause more long-term harm than short-term good.

Use technology to ensure peaceful communication

If there's tension between you and the other parent, having a tool to facilitate communication can be crucial.

The Custody X Change app has a messaging feature that allows you to send and receive messages and saves every conversation. The built-in hostility monitor alerts you to any words that may increase tensions, reminding you to think twice before you send.

Custody X Change makes it easier to keep the tension between parents at a minimum.

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