March 2023 Newsletter

The “Co-Parenting” issue – Yes it can be done. Despite the anger, disappointment, and sadness that we often experience during divorce, it is possible find a place of love and compassion within us for our children that will inspire us to get along with our children’s other parent. Afterall, it is not the children’s fault that we as parents could not make a marriage work. Why then should we expect our children to suffer the consequences of our feelings about our soon to be ex? Even when we think children are not listening and we try to hide the animosity we feel towards the other parent – children pick up on the fact that things “aren’t right”. Children can sense the things that we believe we are shielding them from. This requires us to put our hatreds aside and do what we can to minimize chaos in our children’s lives both during and after divorce. To do otherwise can affect our future relationships with our children

This issue opens with 5 Healthy Co-Parenting Boundaries, followed by What is Co-Parenting After Divorce and concludes with What Makes for Successful Co-Parenting After Divorce? Ten key principles that enable children to flourish.

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5 Healthy Co-Parenting Boundaries

By Tessa Noel

Posted on January 12, 2022

Co Parenting 1

Are you sustaining a healthy balance with your co-parent? Are you each giving and receiving equally in your shared responsibilities for your child? If not, and you are finding that co-parenting is stressful or leaving you with feelings of exhaustion and resentment, don’t worry, you’re not alone! But this may be a sign that you need some help.

So… what’s the secret to a successful co-parenting relationship? Boundaries!

Boundaries make co-parenting so much better. Setting healthy Boundaries in co-parenting is a way to respect both parent’s time, energy and privacy while parents work together to cooperatively raise their children after divorce or separation. Boundaries create realistic expectations so that each parent can successfully step into their co-parenting role to maintain balance and harmony within the relationship. Here are five healthy co-parenting boundaries you should maintain for a successful co-parenting relationship and happy kids:

1. Keep the kids out of conflict

Adult topics should only be between you and your co-parent. Parents should go above and beyond to adopt a positive standard when speaking about their co-parent to their kids. Children self-identify with both of their parents and they feel validated when this is recognized. A comment like, “Hey buddy, you're so good at math! Just like daddy!” can be so encouraging for your child (and helps reinforce a positive co-parenting relationship). Don’t jeopardize your child’s self-worth by allowing criticism of either parent.

2. Stick to business, zero personal stuff

Advantageous co-parenting requires both parents to cooperate to ensure a professional, friendly relationship. To make this happen, it’s important for you and your co-parent to communicate as you would with a business colleague or boss at work. Keep the intimate details of each other’s personal lives out of the relationship and stay child focused. In order to move forward toward a healthy co-parenting relationship, the expectations, assumptions and informality of the former intimate relationship can no longer exist. Instead, focus on the ability to work together respectfully for the children.

3. Use effective methods of communication

You should have a solutions-based approach when dealing with issues. Here’s an example, “I noticed that Monday morning pick-ups have been running about 15 minutes behind schedule. Would it be easier if we changed the pick-up time to 8:15? Let me know and we can start next week, Thanks!” With this approach, your co-parent is less likely to be put on the defensive about being late and already has a solution to the problem. Knowing communication methods like this can help de-escalate potential disputes and keep the peace within your correspondence.

4. Be supportive of your co- parent’s role in your child’s life

If you can, include your co-parent in events in your child’s schedule, like soccer games and dance recitals. Share the inside info on what’s going on with your child that your co-parent may have missed during your parenting time. Sending a quick message like, “Just a head’s up, our daughter will now only eat Trader Joe’s brand marinara on her spaghetti,” can make a big impact. Being a supportive co-parent is an amazing way to benefit your child and create a positive dynamic in your relationship.

5. Stick to the parenting schedule

Make sure your parenting plan is comprehensive with no room for misunderstandings. The plan needs to cover parenting time, date and time of exchanges, holidays, vacations and emergency protocols. A carefully written parenting plan can be created so that work, school and social life all revolve around scheduled parenting time.

Respect your co-parents time by arriving for pick-ups/drop-offs on time, not planning activities during your co-parent's time, and making sure that the kids are available for their video call time. We all know how inconvenient last minute schedule changes can be, so try not to ask that of your co-parent unless absolutely necessary. If modifications to the schedule are needed, try to give plenty of notice so your co-parent is not caught off guard.

Setting boundaries can be hard at first and may feel uncomfortable

Once the boundary is set it will become a normal, everyday part of the co-parenting relationship that eliminates resentment and nurtures compassion. By setting specific, firm boundaries right away and keeping the relationship child focused, you are laying the foundation for an amicable co-parenting relationship for life.

Remember that your children love both their parents very much and they want both parents to be actively involved in their lives! Setting healthy co-parenting boundaries can make a big difference in how you show up for your kids to help them thrive in a two home environment.

What is co-parenting after a divorce?

By Megan Braden-Perry

Aug. 21, 2020, 10:44 AM MDT

Co Parenting 2

Divorce happens. For couples with children, what comes after can make all the difference in how family dynamics continue.

Co-parenting is when divorced or separated parents work together to raise their children, instead of operating as fully independent parties. Typically co-parents collaborate on the big, impactful decisions and operate independently on small, everyday ones. Some of the biggest decisions regard visitation, education and health, which all look different in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As in any partnership, it takes compromise and mutual respect to make it work. What sets co-parenting apart from other partnerships, however, is that kids’ development is at stake.

Don't communicate while angry

“When marriages don’t work out, spouses can part ways and do as they please. Parents cannot,” medical psychologist Dr. Baraka W. Perez says. “Your child is your creation and shared responsibility. When co-parenting, it is essential to focus on the task at hand: parenting.” Start the co-parenting conversation assuming the child’s other parent also has the child’s best interest at heart. If talks get tense, try to take a breather. Communicating while angry could lead to hurtful outbursts and hasty decisions. “The takeaway message is to put personal grievances aside for the wellbeing of your child,” Perez says.

One way to help keep things fair, therefore civil, is to consider each parent’s skills and circumstances in creating a cooperative system. For instance, a parent who is an educator could have the final say in where a child goes to school. A parent who loved sports as a kid could have the final say in choosing extracurricular activities. “Once you both divide and decide to mutually parent your child, you really home in on making the decisions from your individual perspectives,” co-parent coach Toni Latrice Coleman says. “It is important for the individuals to learn they are two different people and they both hold strengths and weaknesses. I try to help identify these in my clients so that we are handing tasks off to each parent based on their strengths.”

Don't use children as the messenger

Many co-parents find that the same problems which plagued their romantic relationships are often the source of conflicts in their co-parenting. “Co-parenting can be challenging as poor communication may have contributed to the actual divorce,” Perez says. “When parents are amicable, this improves your child’s mental health and wellbeing. It also demonstrates problem solving and how to get along with someone with whom you may not see eye-to-eye.” A mistake co-parents often make, is having children relay messages to the other parent. Not only could it lead to misunderstandings, a la telephone game, but it sets a bad example of communication for the child.

Be consistent with plans

Aside from involving them in some decisions, one-parent-to-one-kid, children shouldn’t be privy to any co-parenting discussions. “Plans should be made when both parents are calm, willing to compromise, and mentally prepared to have these conversations. If circumstances allow, children should not be a part of, or even in earshot of, these conversations,” Perez says. “Imagine an auction with the child as the coveted item and parents as bidders. How must it feel to hear your parents ‘bid’ for your time?”

“Co-parenting can be challenging, but your child is worth it,” Perez says. “Communicate amicably, compromise, and be consistent with your plans.” It’s OK that it might not always be perfect or 100 percent equal. “Sometimes the choices don’t necessarily hold the best interest of the other parent,” Coleman says. “But looking at the positives of the entire picture is what can help you navigate with a lot of peace in the process.”

What Makes for Successful Co-Parenting After Divorce?

Ten key principles that enable children to flourish.

By Edward Kruk Ph.D

Posted November 10, 2014

Co Parenting 3

Whenever parents seek advice about helping their children adjust to the fallout of divorce, they are, more often than not, instructed about what not to do rather than provided with useful ideas about how to behave in a positive manner to the benefit of their children.

They are typically told: “Don’t put your children in the middle of conflict between you and your ex” or, “Don’t badmouth the other parent.” Although such advice has its place, it nevertheless assumes a deficit perspective in relation to divorcing parents, and overlooks parents’ good faith efforts and capacity to do the best for their children, given a little support. Many such prescriptions also fall short in regard to offering concrete, practical steps that parents can take to enable their children to not only cope with the divorce but flourish in its aftermath.

The following principles are offered in the spirit that parents have the strengths, capacities, and abilities to help children through the difficult transitions attendant to divorce, and will be able to do the best for their children with concrete, practical support. It is the responsibility of service providers and support networks to help parents in their quest to address their children’s needs during and after divorce. What we expect of others, they endeavor to provide: If we expect divorcing parents to be responsible and act in their children’s best interests, and provide the supports to enable them to do so, they will act accordingly; if we expect them to fail, they will fail.

Although there is no “typical divorce” and no “magic formula” for ensuring positive child and family outcomes, and every child and family are unique, there are some general principles for successful co-parenting that apply to most, if not all, divorcing families:

1. Be there for your children, both physically and emotionally. Quantity of time matters; quality relationships are not possible without sufficient routine time to develop and sustain those relationships. But although quantity of parental time is necessary for successful child outcomes, it is not sufficient: Children also need their parents to be emotionally present, engaged and attuned, taking an interest in all aspects of their lives and actively involved in their day-to-day routines.

2. Talk with your children about the divorce. Above all, children need to know that they will not be abandoned, physically or emotionally, by either of their parents. Reassure them by first of all creating a safe environment for the discussion, and a safe way to express their feelings of shock and confusion, self-blame, fear, grief, anger, or guilt. Recognize that divorce is a long-term process for children, not a one-time event, and be prepared to have several such talks. If possible, talk with your children together as parents, reassuring them that you will cooperate in the future.

3. Let children be children. Don’t involve children in adult problems; rather, maintain continuity in their existing routines and relationships, and shelter them from the struggles that are properly the responsibility of their parents.

4. Support the other parent’s role and relationship with your children. The idea is to maximize and optimize the time that your children can spend with each of their parents. It is extremely difficult for parents to be at their best when having to parent under duress, and when having to deal with a co-parent who is less than supportive of their role and relationship with their children. You can support each other as parents by keeping to the co-parenting schedule, remaining flexible in accommodating each other wherever possible, and moving from a place of conflict and antagonism toward that of cooperation as parents. A big part of this is to separate your previous hostilities as a couple from your ongoing co-parenting responsibilities.

5. Speak about and act in a respectful manner toward the other parent, especially in front of your children. Conveying an attitude of respect toward your co-parent is vital to children’s well-being, and shielding children from conflict is essential. There are few things more damaging to a child than witnessing conflict between parents, and ongoing conflict cuts to the heart of a child’s well-being, as children see themselves as essentially half their mother and half their father. Keep this at the forefront of all interactions between you and the other parent in front of the child.

6. Wherever possible, maintain open communication channels with the other parent. Open and regular communication is the key to cooperative parenting. If this is not possible, then phone calls, emails, or stockpiling concerns to be discussed at periodic “co-parenting meetings,” with or without a third party present, are good alternatives. If you are unable to communicate without resorting to conflict and recriminations, a parallel parenting plan in which co-parenting arrangements are spelled out in a detailed agreed-upon schedule, is another effective option.

7. Maintain your child’s community of support. Essential to children is the security of

maintaining existing relationships and routines with extended family members, friends, school, and other activities. This adds to children’s sense of stability, continuity, and predictability in their lives.

8. Educate yourself about children’s needs, co-parenting options, and community resources. Shared parenting offers parents an almost infinite variety of co-parenting scheduling possibilities commensurate with children’s ages and stages of development, and can be tailor-made to children’s and families’ unique circumstances. There are a variety of web-, print-, and community-based resources (including divorce education programs) for parents to access.

9. Seek out formal and informal sources of co-parenting support. Family members, friends, and informal support networks are vital in helping parents work through difficult feelings, including anger management, and the multiple challenges and transitions attendant to divorce. More formal sources of support also span a wide array: therapeutic family mediation focused on the development and implementation of co-parenting plans, divorce coaching, and parenting coordination in high conflict situations.

10. Maintain your own health and well-being as a priority. Taking care of yourself is essential not only for your own but for your children’s well-being. Your children depend on you, and you owe it to them to prioritize your own physical, emotional, and mental health. For parents struggling in the face of systemic barriers to co-parenting: never, never give up.

Above all, it is critical to keep in mind that the two most important factors in children’s successful adjustment to the consequences of divorce are the maintenance of a meaningful routine relationship with each of their parents, and to be shielded from ongoing parental conflict. The challenge for parents is to develop and maintain a co-parenting relationship that ensures that both of these essential needs are met. The challenge for both professional service providers and informal support networks is to support (and not undermine) parents in the fulfillment of their responsibilities in regard to these needs of children in particular.

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