How to Make Co-Parenting Work for You
So, you are either getting a divorce or are experiencing conflict with your ex. Let me guess… the thought of seeing your ex makes you see red. You can go from 0-50 in 3.2 seconds when you are near your ex or his name is even mentioned. And now your attorney or the judge recommended co-parenting therapy. What’s a parent to do?
Here are a few survival tips:
1. Focus on the kids, not yourself Your kids did not decide to have their family uprooted and split apart. They did not choose to have two different houses, live in two different neighborhoods or move away from their friends, neighborhood and community. They are doing the best they can in learning to manage and process through all of the changes in their lives. Be the parent they believe you to be. Take the higher road.
2. Fight fair No fighting dirty, sabotaging or alienating the other parent. This only makes you look bad in your kids eyes and may create difficulties with your child being honest with you out of fear of being disloyal to the other parent. Do not use parenting time or your children as bargaining chips. Also, no yelling, screaming, name calling or talking bad about the other parent.
3. Examine your own emotional responses to your ex. All actions have a positive and negative consequence. Are you being as open, flexible and respectful as you think? Reread email correspondence from the perspective of your ex. Can your words be perceived as harsh, rigid, inflexible and/or unreasonable? Are you giving the benefit of the doubt or allowing your feelings about their past actions to negatively color your interactions? Do you make assumptions or stick to factual information?
4. Your attorney is not your therapist Please remember, you hired an attorney to defend your interests in court and get you the best deal regarding finances, alimony or child support and parenting time, not to help you work through your complicated feelings about your ex. Please don’t send constant emails, texts or leave numerous voicemails.
5. Find a good individual therapist you trust. Your co-parenting therapist is not your individual therapist. Her role is to help you and your ex to learn and implement non-aggressive communication skills, help you establish guidelines regarding parenting (bedtimes, homework, phone calls with the other parent, discipline) and/or help you work on issues of shame, guilt and forgiveness. If you are not emotionally ready to work towards peaceful communication due to issues of anger, resentment, sadness or betrayal, individual counseling will likely help.
6. Focus on the donut, not the hole. Pick your battles. Does it really matter that he brought the kids home 5 minutes later than expected or you gave her ten extra minutes to say good-bye to the kids after the softball game? Do you really want to punish him/her for that? We try our best but sometimes we fall short. Most of you didn’t plan to be a single parent and you may need some support as you navigate new waters.