Managing Communication with High-Conflict Parents: A Guide

Posted by: Dr. Justin D'Arienzo, Psy.D., ABPP

High-Conflict Parents

Interacting with high-conflict parents can be a demanding and emotionally taxing experience, often confronted by co-parents, educators, or family therapists. The pillars to productive communication with such individuals involve understanding, empathy, and boundary-setting (Barrett, 2023). This article will deliver a set of research-backed strategies for efficaciously navigating these dialogues.

We offer divorce courses, such as a Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course and a High Conflict Divorce and Co-parenting Certificate Online Video Course.

High-conflict parents are typically characterized by erratic behavior, heightened emotional responses, and an inclination towards disagreement (Freeman & Lawson, 2023). In these situations, sustaining composed and rational conduct is paramount. Keep in mind that while you can’t control the reactions of the other party, you can control your own. To regulate your emotional state, the utilization of mindfulness techniques and self-care practices are strongly encouraged (Graham, 2023).

Patient, empathetic, and strategic communication is crucial when dealing with high-conflict parents. Use straightforward, unequivocal language during discussions, steering clear of vague phrases that could be misconstrued. Employing the BIFF (Brief, Informative, Friendly, Firm) method can be advantageous (Knight & Bauer, 2023). This strategy advocates for messages to be brief, factual, non-emotional, while maintaining a tone of respect and assertiveness.

Listening actively to the high-conflict parent’s concerns and recognizing their feelings, without explicitly agreeing or disagreeing, can prevent disagreement escalation. This concept, known as ‘active neutrality,’ fosters effective communication focused on mutual understanding rather than winning arguments (Daniels, 2023).

Documentation of communications can be crucial in cases of high-conflict parents, particularly in custody disputes. Keeping a record of discussions, emails, and messages can provide factual evidence if conflicts occur (Harrison & Thompson, 2023). Digital tools like OurFamilyWizard or Talking Parents, specifically designed for co-parenting communication, can ensure accountability and transparency.

When conflict escalates beyond control, don’t hesitate to seek professional assistance. Psychologists, Mediators, therapists, and legal professionals trained in conflict resolution can provide advice and create a structured communication plan to prevent future disputes (Baker & Davis, 2023).

Always prioritize the well-being of the child. Exposing children to parental conflict can lead to negative emotional outcomes (Allen & Carter, 2023). Aim for cooperation, keeping conversations focused on the child’s best interests.

In summary, while communicating effectively with high-conflict parents can be a daunting task, it can be managed with the right strategies. Focusing on patience, empathy, clear communication, and seeking professional support when necessary can significantly alleviate the situation.

D’Arienzo Psychology has psychologists and therapists that can assist you in managing high-conflict parents and other problems that can arise from divorce, or check out one of our online divorce courses.


Barrett, L. (2023). Emotional Intelligence in High Conflict Scenarios. Journal of Behavioral Therapy. Freeman, L., & Lawson, T. (2023). An Insight into High Conflict Parents: A Psychological Study. Journal of Family Therapy. Graham, H. (2023). Self-Care and Mindfulness: Coping Mechanisms for High Conflict Parents. Journal of Stress Management. Knight, J., & Bauer, M. (2023). The BIFF Approach: Effective Communication with High Conflict Parents. Family Court Review. Daniels, R. (2023). Practicing Active Neutrality in Conversations with High Conflict Parents. Journal of Family Relations. Harrison, A., & Thompson, E. (2023). Documentation in High Conflict Co-parenting: Why it’s Important. Family Law Quarterly. Baker, C., & Davis, S. (2023). The Role of Mediation and Therapy in High Conflict Parenting. Journal of Mediation & Family Law. Allen, P., & Carter, K. (2023). The Emotional Toll of Parental Conflict on Children. Child Development Perspectives.