Parenting after divorce can be a challenge, but most do their very best to rise to the occasion. Co-parenting is just one custody approach that Texas parents use to maintain a healthy and secure relationship with their children. But what happens when one co-parent engages in toxic behaviors?
A toxic parent is one who regularly behaves in a manner that instills fear, obligation and guilt in their kids. For example, a parent may make him or herself emotionally unavailable to a child by making every situation about his or her own self. Or a toxic parent might be overly controlling by not allowing a child to have any privacy or make any decisions. These parents may also try and manipulate children by guilting or shaming them, or by resorting to physical and emotional abuse.
Setting clear boundaries with a legal parenting plan is an essential step to protecting a child from a toxic parent. A court ordered child custody agreement should not leave much room for manipulating or guilting an ex into making changes. Unfortunately, this does not mean that a toxic parent will not try to do so anyway. Addressing parenting issues and custody violations through a court appointed mediator may be one of the most appropriate choices for engaging with an ex-spouse who exhibits toxic behaviors.
Perhaps most importantly, parents should provide as much empathy as possible and create safe spaces for their children. But there are also times when co-parenting with a toxic parent is no longer in a child’s best interests. In this situation, a parent can petition the court for a modification of a current order. However, since Texas values the opportunity for children to maintain relationships with both their parents, one must be prepared to demonstrate how the change is in a child’s best interests.