Are You and Your Ex Struggling to Manage Co-Parenting?
Is your ex the last person you want to be in a room with? Does your ex seem to think that he or she can control all aspects of the kids’ lives? Do you notice that your kids seem stuck in the middle? Are they struggling with the changes in their lives? Have you moved on in your dating life and your partner just can’t accept it? Do you stay up at night crying or ruminating on how things got to this point? Do you wish you knew how to put your emotions aside and take on somewhat of a “business-like” relationship with you ex?
Divorce is never easy, but it can be even more complicated when you are worried about the well-being of your children. Maybe you are sad or maybe even glad that your relationship with your ex is over, but now you are trying to figure out how to navigate this very scary road of co-parenting. Maybe your partner was quiet during the marriage, which led to little to no communication, but now he or she has more of an opinion than ever. Or perhaps when you were married everything was a fight and continues to be. You might miss you’re your children terribly when they are away with your ex and struggle to think of your kids spending time without you, or worse yet the thoughts of them with your ex and his/her new partner. Perhaps you don’t know how to trust that they will be okay. The thought of co-parenting counseling may terrify you even.
Perhaps you and your ex-partner have ended your relationship civilly and just need guidance on where to go from here. You might wonder how to tell the kids that you are separating and how to figure out the best visitation schedule. It still may be quite uncomfortable, especially if the break-up was not a mutual decision. One person is left grieving, longing for the relationship still, while maybe the other person wants nothing but to move on. This may be a sad time for all involved, especially the children. Maybe they don’t understand and want both parents back together again. Or, perhaps they do understand and think it’s best for you and your ex to split so the arguing stops.
Many Families Face the Challenges of Divorce or Separation
Every separated or divorced couple with children goes through this process. As you work to figure out the complications of separating and co-parenting, emotions can be strong. You probably did not guess or hope that you would be in this situation, so it makes sense that you are unsure how to navigate this road. Divorce is a common thing today, and many parents need help navigating the frustration, anger and sadness that can come with it.
In a typical divorce, both people will decide how to divide up financial assets as well as the property between them. This can be a difficult process, however with children in the mix, it can be quite a bit more emotional of a process. Parents often get caught up in what they want versus what they believe is best for the children. Sometimes parents will believe what they want is best for the kids, when in fact, it may be more of a personal interest. Topics to address may include visitation, discipline, how to separate the kids belongings to the two households, how to and when to involve new partners, school issues, doctors appointments, hair cuts, etc.
Since there are so many things to work out it makes sense that both parents will have an opinion and that those opinions may clash at times. If you can work these things out with a mediator than that is best. My role in co-parenting counseling will be to help you each understand how to recognize when your emotions are high, understand how to work through them, how to best respond to your ex when your emotions are high and how to work towards an agreement. My biggest role, I believe, is to help you understand how your children are impacted by the way in which you both work things out, or don’t work things out. I want both parents to understand that their children are in the middle and feel the tension, even if they are not physically present during discussions. The best indicator of how parents work out their differences is seen in their children. I often provide hand-outs to educate on what to expect and things to look out for. These can be good reminders for when you are home and may have a hard time remembering all that was discussed in session.
Co-Parenting Counseling Can Help Both You and Your Children
Co-parenting counseling is designed to help parents and by extension, your children. It’s true that asking separated parents to sit in the same room can be a sticky situation with lots of emotions flying around. From the beginning, I will stress that we are not here to work on the relationship. Instead, I will help each of you figure out how to work together when parenting your children. I strive to be as neutral as possible while focusing on the children. I will suggest coping strategies and help you come to respect each other, even if you are in very different places. This is a safe space for you to communicate your emotions and thoughts, and I want both parents to feel able to bring up concerns and ideas as to what may help. I tend to have a direct approach with clients, which can be helpful in co-parenting counseling.
During co-parenting counseling sessions, we will address a variety of topics that may be causing you stress. I will help you and your co-parent agree to a flexible, consistent visitation schedule as well as on rules and discipline tactics in each house. Consistency is important for your children, and this agreement will prevent your children from feeling confused or deciding that one parent is the “fun” parent. It is also important to agree on your children’s sleep schedule. Step-parents and new partners should also agree to uphold the rules and discipline methods that you decide upon in counseling.
I will also work directly with you and the co-parent to help you identify effective ways to communicate with one another about your children. I can help you make your relationship civil and business-like, without the personal hurts that you may still be feeling. You can begin to recognize when you are responding to pre-existing marital issues rather than the present problems that you have to work through for the sake of your children. I will also help you better understand how to talk about your co-parent in front of your child.
With the help and support of an experienced counselor, you can learn how to navigate the new rules of your relationship with your co-parent. You can come to better understand what your children may by thinking and feeling, and what sort of responses you can expect from them. Though divorce and separation are never easy, counseling can help your transition into co-parenting go as smoothly as possible.
You may believe that co-parenting counseling can help you establish a healthy relationship with your ex, but still have questions or concerns…
It would be too difficult to sit in a room with my ex.
In our first session, it may be very difficult to sit with your ex. However, with all three of us working together to figure out what we are working on, co-parenting counseling can go more and more smoothly. For the first couple of sessions, we will work together to identify the specific things you both want addressed. We will establish boundaries and identify topics we should avoid, and I will ensure that all parties feel as safe as possible.
If you have tried to do navigate co-parenting on your own and it was not successful, counseling can help. I can’t promise it will be fun, but it can be effective.
Co-Parenting Counseling will NEVER work! How do I know if it is right for us?
Co-parenting counseling may not be helpful for all separated couples. If there was abuse in your relationship, then I would not recommend it. Abuse indicates that there was a power dynamic in the relationship that was uneven. Co-parenting counseling can just lead to additional abusive dynamics. In this situation, I would recommend individual counseling instead. This way the individuals can work through any of their own unresolved marital issues by gaining insight into how the relationship dynamic affected them and how it continues to impact their decisions now. I would only work with one partner in this situation.
If there was not abuse present, then I would say co-parenting counseling can work. I agree it may be uncomfortable. However, it can be extremely important for the ongoing well-being of your children.
How do I get my ex to agree to come?
You can use a variety of approaches with a reluctant ex. If you are able to talk to him otherwise, then consider bringing counseling up as an effective way to get on the same page regarding your children. Or, if you are not talking, then perhaps a thought out email can be helpful. I would suggest identifying how the situation has been difficult for both of you and explaining that both of you may learn how to better communicate about the kids with counseling. If you and your ex are involved in mediation, then that can be the perfect forum to bring it up.
Free Phone Consultation
Feel free to contact me to discuss your personal situation. I offer a free 15-minute phone call for potential new clients. I can be reached at (703) 554-2882. I look forward to speaking with you regarding your situation.