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Competitive co-parenting can be dangerous

Regardless of whether the divorce was amicable or not, co-parenting after a divorce can be a complicated matter.

Dealing with the emotions a divorce can bring, such as grief, anger and even guilt, can influence how parents approach co-parenting. Unfortunately, this can lead many parents down the road of competitive co-parenting.

When parents compete with each other to seem like the best parent or to win their child’s favor, it can be risky for the entire family in several ways, including:

1. It is detrimental for children

Competition in co-parenting often stems from trying to be the child’s favorite parent – whether to atone for guilt or even get back at the other parent. Yet, it is often detrimental to children. When parents focus on competing with each other, it can:

  • Make children feel caught in the middle of their parents;
  • Prevent parents from acting in their child’s best interests;
  • Prevent parents from providing consistent rules for their children.

When parenting becomes about the competition, children get lost in the middle.

2. It often leads to more disputes

One way that parents compete is by acting as the fun parent. Therefore, they might avoid disciplining their children or upholding certain rules – like bedtimes – to make the children favor them over the other parent.

In these cases, parents could face significant disputes over their parenting plan as well as the child’s wellbeing. For example, discrepancies in rules or discipline between households might not only violate the parenting plan and agreement, but it could also create a lack of stability for children, leading children to act out.

3. It can be expensive

Another common form of parental competition manifests materially. Parents might buy their children expensive gifts or pay for vacations to try and upstage the other parent.

Managing finances after divorce can already be difficult. That difficulty can compound if parents face a competitive co-parent who uses finances or gifts to compete for the child's affections.

No matter the circumstances, competitive co-parenting can harm everyone in the family. Virginia parents should be aware of this kind of competition, so they can protect their family post-divorce.

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