Why co-parenting counseling could be a game-changer for your family

Why co-parenting counseling could be a game-changer for your family

Being a parent in the same household can be difficult. But being a parent of two different households? This comes with its own set of additional complications – especially when each parent has their own way of doing things – which can leave children confused and conflicted. It goes without saying that the dissolution of a marriage (or any romantic partnership) brings up many feelings.

Having children in the picture makes it even more emotionally charged, and when emotions run high, the likelihood of clashing with each other is also maximum. If you find yourself in this situation, it might be time to explore co-parenting advice and help bring some harmony (or at least civil collaboration) to your family. To help you through this tricky time, Scary Mommy spoke to certified divorce therapists and coaches to glean some insight.

What is co-parenting counselling?

“Co-parenting counseling occurs when parents who have separated, divorced, or are in the midst of separation or divorce, support their children’s participation in counseling services,” Kevin Kidd, PLC, MAa therapist with Wellness with open armsExplain.

He explains: “The structure of the co-parenting council is extremely varied depending on the situation of the family and the direction of the adviser. In some cases, separated parents are both able to put aside their own emotional baggage from the conflict in order for their children to participate. Other times, one or both parents may find it difficult to do so. Issues addressed typically include adjusting to parental separation and resulting changes, improving communication, coming to terms with parental separation, and managing conflict.

What is the goal for parents?

Co-parenting doesn’t always mean the parents don’t agree. Sometimes parents just want to maintain the healthy co-parenting relationship that is already working for their family. Although, unfortunately, many people seeking help from a co-parenting therapist are dealing with an ex they don’t get along with, making it difficult to agree on the best way to raise their children. And that’s where co-parenting counseling comes in.

Similar to conventional one-on-one therapy, co-parenting sessions will aim to help each parent understand their feelings and how they influence the way they parent and interact with the other parent. Therapists also focus heavily on their children understanding parents so they can make decisions based on what is best for the children.

“The job is to learn skills to increase the effectiveness of the co-parenting relationship. These skills are taught through discussion and agreement on a variety of parenting plan issues, from the parenting schedule to how to save for college,” explains Mary Ann Aronsohn, MA, LMFTMarriage and family therapist specializing in co-parenting, blended families and divorce.

She continues, “Skills include basic communication strategies (such as ‘I’ messages and polite requests, genuinely curious questions, and mutual consultation while giving the benefit of the doubt) as well as negotiation strategies (such than concentration on interests, proposals and counter-proposals). The intention that we use as common ground is the desire for the child/children to thrive.

The goal should never be to gain leverage to use against the other parent, adds Kidd, emphasizing, “The goal is to help your child adjust to an upsetting situation that is pervasive and difficult for them. , not to make you look good , or your spouse looks bad, later in front of a judge. Children should be the sole focus of this type of counseling service.

What is the child’s involvement in the co-parenting council?

Co-parenting counseling is highly individualized, with your therapist determining the best treatment based on family feedback. But child participation is a vital part of the process. Kidd recommends that parents bring their child(ren) to meet with a counselor early in the process and allow them to meet one-on-one with the therapist during the majority of sessions so they can “freely and honestly” process their thoughts. and their feelings.

“In cases where children have just been informed that their parents are divorcing or separating, therapists offer children the opportunity to process their thoughts and feelings,” he says. “The therapist will likely discuss potential pitfalls of the process.”

In situations where children have been aware of their parents’ separation for some time, the focus is on finding solutions to the problems that arise. “This could include helping children determine the best coping skills to use to reduce angry outbursts, finding ways to improve transitions when sharing time living in two different households and playing a role in how best to handle situations involving the kids’ friends and peers being aware of the split and asking questions they’re not emotionally ready to answer,” says Kidd.

What can you do at home until you can see a co-parenting counselor?

It is not always possible for two different households to come together to coordinate access to a co-parenting counselor. And some families can’t afford the extra expense, especially at a time when inflation has caused such a spike in the cost of living. If co-parenting advice doesn’t currently fit your family’s schedule or budget, Aronsohn offers the following advice:

  1. Treat kids’ feedback like pieces of a puzzle (rather than the whole or complete truth). This approach teaches co-parents to come together to share their puzzle pieces with the goal of joining their pieces of information and creating a bigger picture of what the child may be experiencing.
  2. Focus on the thought rather than the feeling. Especially applicable in the most divisive co-parenting situations, it helps you productively come up with possible solutions instead of sorting out the truth from the past.
  3. Try to find common ground. When you’re tempted to accuse, complain, or criticize, try creating a polite request (for the specific desired behavior) or proposal (that you think the other parent might actually agree to).
  4. Speak positive things about the other parent occasionally, as well as positives about how the child resembles the other parent. In addition to avoiding saying bad things about the other parent within earshot of the child (or similar non-verbal expressions), this supports the child and allows him to love you both more freely.
  5. Create a blameless narrative about what happened to the parents’ relationship, joint if possible, so that children, friends and family can avoid taking sides.
  6. Disagree privately. Co-parenting is a journey, and there are often obstacles in the way that can lead to disagreements. For the sake of your children and to avoid confusion, do your best not to have your arguments in front of the children. Especially in co-parenting, showing a united front is essential. But if you accidentally argue in front of the little ones, just be sure to reconcile in front of them as well.

Of course, not all co-parenting journeys follow the same path. The issues you deal with—and your therapist discusses, if you choose counseling—can vacillate depending on the particular circumstances of each family situation. The most important thing to remember, says Aronsohn, is that “a productive and respectful co-parenting relationship is essential to the growth and development of children.”

Editor’s Note: Co-parenting counseling is not advised in abusive situations. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, understand that there is both help and hope. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

This article was originally published on 13.05.2022