10 ways to get past conflict with your co-parent

We have to accept that we're going to have differences—and learn how to create agreement.

get past conflict with co-parent

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think about navigating conflict with your child's other parent? We often envision heated discussion, character attacks and that special mix of exasperation and apprehension that comes when we see paragraphs-long text messages on our phone from our co-parent.

Mamas, it doesn't have to be this way. Conflict is simply two different perspectives existing relevant to the same issue, which is inevitable in co-parenting—and probably a large component of why you're not still together.

When we accept that we are going to have differences of perspective with our co-parent, we are better able to show up to these conflicts with the intention of creating agreements that best reflect everyone's needs—without being triggered into emotional reactivity.

I know this stuff isn't easy. My own process of navigating conflict with my daughter's father has been exhausting and infuriating. I've had to stand up for my own time and my emotional boundaries. I've had to work hard not to roll my eyes or take a condescending approach. And together we've had to move through disagreements about our daughter's diet, schedule, screen time, and activities to create greater alignment and consistency, despite different parenting styles (and as of this writing, we're still working on it).

As co-parents, we've gotten this far using a set of tools that helps shift dialogue from conflict to collaboration. These tools won't apply to every co-parenting situation, as sometimes it's the case that our children's other parent simply isn't able to refrain from abusive behavior, in which case a parallel parenting approach may be more appropriate.

Here are 10 strategies for getting past conflict with your co-parent.

1. Schedule check-ins.

Have regular parenting check-ins that occur either in person or over the phone, without your children present. This creates an opportunity to discuss what's working and what's not in your co-parenting agreements, to share observations and any concerns about your children, and to hash out any big shared decisions. Meeting regularly keeps tension from building up around differences, which when left to simmer eventually tends to come out as aggression.

2. Practice reflective listening.

Reflective listening, where each person listens and repeats back what they hear their co-parent saying ("What I'm hearing is… Am I understanding?") can be a powerful tool. When we reflect on our understanding of our co-parent's communication and invite them to let us know whether we've understood them correctly, our other parent feels heard. This means they should ideally have less of a need to resort to aggressive communication to get their point across, and it also creates more space for us to process and respond. Another bonus of reflective listening is that it tends to amplify the truly ridiculous or unreasonable requests we can sometimes field from our co-parents, which can (sometimes) help them to recognize this for themselves.

3. Prioritize appropriately.

Focus on creating agreements based on the needs and values of all parties. Attempt to find common ground by identifying your child's needs first. Then express your own needs, and invite your co-parent to share theirs.

4. Acknowledge what you value in your co-parent.

A little recognition can go a long way toward transforming your co-parenting relationship to one of mutual positive regard. Sometimes this requires digging deep, but there is usually something we can find to appreciate about them or their relationship with our children.

5. Avoid "always" and "never."

Tempting as these words are to use in the heat of the moment, most of the time it isn't objectively true that anyone "always" or "never" does anything. Worse, these words tend to derail the conversation, with one side defending themselves and running through all of the exceptions to "always" and "never." Even if the rare cases where an essentializing statement is accurate, it's a better strategy to stick to what's behind your frustration instead, keeping the conversation focused on creating solutions and agreements.

6. Refrain from character attacks.

Belittling, shaming and other unhelpful forms of communication are the quickest way to inflame conflict. This type of communication also degrades our children in that they are, on at least a cellular level, reflective of the other parent we are shaming and attacking. Keep it professional.

7. Know when to take a break.

If despite your best attempts you find a discussion escalating to an emotionally charged place where you're no longer hearing each other or solving anything, pause the discussion.

8. Don't text when triggered.

Seriously, put the phone down. If you're bothered by your co-parent's behavior or parenting, take some time before approaching them about it. Instead, vent to a friend or your journal and release your anger in a healthy physical way. If you find yourself on the receiving end of reactive text messages, don't get hooked in to responding on the same level. Set a boundary to keep texting to logistics when things are tough, or block when your co-parent fails to respect this boundary.

9. Get help when you need it.

Recognize when you need professional help and explore mediation or co-parenting counseling

10. Visualize your goals in the relationship.

Pick a symbol that reminds you of your intentions for communicating with your co-parent and make it their photo icon on your phone. Mine is a wizard to remind me of the literal sorcery needed to have effective dialogue with my daughter's father. Keep it silly though—not derogatory—so that you're in your integrity if your child sees it.

Remember mamas, while we can't control our coparent's behavior, we do have the power to take care of our side of the street and communicate with the intention of effective collaboration. Even if your co-parent isn't ready to meet you there, unhooking from cycles of unhelpful communication can reduce the emotional charge in how you experience their behavior. May your co-parenting journey be a peaceful one, in whatever form it takes.

Sarah Lou Warren is a psychotherapist in private practice and certified maternal mental health specialist. She writes about single motherhood, maternal mental health, and conscious parenting at (please link to She lives on the Big Island of Hawaii with her daughter and pit mix

Sarah Lou Warren is a psychotherapist in private practice and certified maternal mental health specialist. She writes about single motherhood, coparenting, and self-nourishment at Single Mama Magic. She lives on the Big Island of Hawaii with her daughter and pit mix.

14 sweet 'just thinking of you' gifts for every mama

A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs.

Who says you have to wait for birthdays or holidays to give your bestie a great gift? A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs in these more-than-trying times. We've rounded up some of our favorite go-to gifts that are certain to be a bright spot in her week. But be warned, you may want to snag a few for yourself. (You deserve it, mama.)

Here are some our favorite "just because" gifts to give our hardworking mama friends.

New Mother face + body care duo

volition face + body care duo

This correcting oil and stretch mark minimizer is perfect for the pregnant mama looking to keep her pregnancy glow. The correcting oil brightens the skin while reducing dark spots, and the stretch mark minimizer works to smooth her ever-growing belly.


Allover roller

esker allover roller

This jade roller goes beyond your typical face roller and can be used anywhere on the body. It works to increase stimulation and reduce puffiness and is perfect for applying any oils to the face or body. Plus, it feels like a mini spa treatment.


Kombucha making kit

farmsteady kombucha making kit

What could be a more perfect gift for the health-obsessed friend? This kombucha making kit comes with everything you need to brew your own homemade green tea kombucha. They'll think this is the tastiest gift ever.


Laetitia lipstick

cupid & psyche laetitia

This red lipstick is perfect for your makeup enthusiast bestie who is looking to spruce up her life in quarantine. Crafted in the United States, these bee and vegan-friendly and cruelty-free lipsticks are created to flatter all complexions. Cupid and Psyche Beauty makes finding the perfect red lip way too easy!


Jigsaw puzzle

inner piecec jigsaw puzzle

Mamas need to destress now more than ever during quarantine. This adorable jigsaw puzzle is perfect for the mama who needs a brain break! The 500-piece puzzle designed by artist Ray Oranges features an abstract gradient design that fits a standard frame when completed. Bonus: It's printed on recycled paper and the company donates $1 from every puzzle sold to youth mindfulness programs.


Matilda's Bloombox

matilda's bloombox

If we have to be stuck inside, we might as well have some gorgeous florals to brighten up the space. Matilda's Bloombox locally sources blooms, delivers them to her door and provides simple tips on how to arrange it into a beautiful bouquet.


'I Am Enough' bracelet

I Am Enough bracelet

Let this dainty bracelet serve as a constant reminder to your bestie that she is enough. She'll wear this on her wrist and read this daily oath to herself, "I Am Enough."


Glow assorted teas

vahdam low assorted teas

This tea gift box set covers the entire spectrum of flavors from sweet to spicy. Individually packaged in beautiful tins, your gal pal will feel like a queen sipping her morning tea. Originally $40, this set is currently on sale for just $24. We'll take two, please.


Find your voice journal

find your voice journal

Journaling is a great way to ease anxiety and will slow your bestie's racing mind before bed. This gift is perfect for first time journalists and includes prompts, daily quotes and coloring pages to help her unlock her potential and find her voice.


Premium frother

shore magic premium frother

This gift is fitting for your latte-sipping bestie who can't go a day without her coffee. All she has to do is add two scoops of collagen to her favorite drink, and she'll have a perfectly foamy drink ready in seconds. Skipping the drive-thru line has never been so easy!


Bath soak infusion kit

maude bath soak infusion kit

Say hello to hydration! She'll be feeling smooth and relaxed as ever after a long bath soaking in these salts. This vegan + cruelty-free set incorporates dead sea salt and dehydrated coconut milk powder for an ultra hydrating experience.


Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

It's a hard-earned title she answers to a hundred times per day. Whether she's new to the club or a seasoned professional, this delicate script 'mama' necklace is guaranteed to be a perfect fit.


Superfood honey

Beekeeper's Naturals B.Powered honey

With a lack of sleep and jam-packed days, getting through the afternoon can be a real challenge. Send her a powerful pick-me-up in the form of a therapeutic blend of royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis and raw honey. It makes the ideal companion for tea, smoothies, yogurt or even on its on.


Calming midnight mask with melatonin

Who doesn't deserve a reminder to pamper themself every once in awhile? Even better, this mask does all its work at night while you're sleeping with no extra effort needed. It's an amazing plant-powered antioxidant-packed mask that has melatonin, wild dandelion leaf and hyaluronic acid to rehydrate, repair and reset facial skin. It's so good, you might want to gift it to yourself. We won't tell, mama.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


Is the Belly Bandit helpful for postpartum recovery?

I personally found myself wanting more core support in my early postpartum months.

My belly has been through some things.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum (yep, severe debilitating pregnancy-related vomiting), the pregnancies of each of my four kids, the 65 pounds of weight gain I have endured with each pregnancy, stretch marks, Occupational Therapy for pregnancy pelvic pain, unmedicated childbirth, and of course, postpartum recovery.

It's my personal opinion that this belly deserves some love. So starting with my second pregnancy, I've relied on Belly Bandit's postpartum belly bands (which I own in three sizes) to help support my core, reduce swelling, and begin to activate my midsection after nine months of being stretched to the max.

Here's why I love Belly Bandit:

Keep reading Show less

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to have kids—so here’s what I did

We asked our three most pessimistic friends who have kids whether it's worth it or not

As told to Liz Tenety.

Around the time my husband and I were turning 30, we had a genuine conversation about whether or not we wanted kids. I was the hesitant one because I was like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Let's just hold on. Okay, let's talk about this. Because we love our life. We like traveling. Is this what we want?"

My husband said, "Let's ask our three most pessimistic, crabby friends who have kids whether or not it's worth it."

And every single one of them was like, "Oh, it's unmissable on planet earth."

So when I got pregnant, I was—and I'm not ashamed to say this and I don't think you should be—I was as connected with the baby in my belly as if it were a water bottle. I was like, I don't know you. I don't know what you are, but you can be some gas pain sometimes, but other than that, we're going to have to meet each other and suss this relationship out.

But all the cliches are true that you just know what to do when the baby comes out. Some of the times are hard, some of them are easier, but you just gotta use your gut.

Keep reading Show less