When children have unmarried parents, it is normal for them to transition between their parent’s homes regularly. Co-parenting becomes the routine when unmarried parents share custody of their children.
Even though parents may have an established co-parenting arrangement, they must still be consciously aware of triangulation and avoid it to protect their child’s best interests.
What is triangulation?
Triangulation is a term often used in counseling and therapy. As it relates to co-parenting, it describes a relationship between three parties, where two parties – in this case, the parents – do not communicate effectively. This forces the third party – or, the children – to communicate for them.
This can occur in many ways, including:
- Parents sending messages to each other through their children;
- Parents sharing their anger or frustration about the other parent with their children; and
- Parents directly asking children about the other parent’s life.
These actions place a considerable amount of stress on children. They leave children stuck in the middle of their parents, either to play peacemaker or be forced to take sides.
How can co-parents avoid triangulation?
Parents might not mean any harm, especially if there is a high level of tension between them. However, triangulation is a common challenge parents and children face after a divorce, and it can be harmful to children and the whole family in the long run.
Thankfully, co-parents can take steps to proactively prevent triangulation or put an end to it by:
- Establishing rules for communication: It might be helpful for parents to sit down with a mediator and discuss how they can communicate effectively. Perhaps they will limit communication to electronic messaging through texts or a co-parenting app. They should also consider creating rules about which topics they should not discuss in front of their children to avoid an argument.
- Agreeing to put children first: If parents commit to putting their children’s best interests first, they can help ensure they actively avoid involving their children in any disagreements or conversations with their co-parent. It can be difficult to set one’s emotions aside, but it is often necessary to protect the children.
Triangulation might not always be this extreme, but it is, unfortunately, common in many co-parenting relationships. That is why North Carolina parents must be on the lookout for signs they are engaging in triangulation.