Common Mistakes in Co-Parenting

Common Mistakes of Co-parenting

As the divorce rates continue to trend upwards in America, many parents are finding themselves with a new challenge to face.  At Anchor Counseling we recognize this trend.  Once a marriage has officially dissolved, many people would like to close the proverbial door on that chapter of their lives.  However, when children are involved, the ex-spouses are forever linked in that very special way.  Through my work with counseling co-parents, I have discovered some common road blocks many couples stumble over preventing them from successful co-parenting their children.

One of the hardest aspects most co-parents will face is trying to move past the residual emotions left behind from the dissolved relationship.  The separation process tends to leave a trail of resentment, pain, and mistrust for different reasons; yet, in order for successful co-parenting to occur, these emotions have be left out of the process.  This is certainly easier said than done, which is why parents are encouraged to find their own appropriate outlet for these emotions (talking to a family member or friend, exercise, yoga, relaxation techniques, reading, and any other healthy stress-relieving activity).  Although using the phone to vent to a trusted support can be helpful, make sure you are aware of your surroundings. Children are often extremely curious about the details regarding these situations, and they can be quite adept at eavesdropping on phone conversations.   Make sure to double-check for “little ears” and find a remote location before expressing your frustrations regarding your ex-partner.

When you are speaking to your child (or if he/she is in earshot), please refrain from saying anything negative regarding the other parent.  I typically encourage co-parents to keep it either positive or neutral when discussing the other parent with the child, and if this is too difficult, I revert back to the old saying, “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.  Children can be quite impressionable, and negative comments about the other parent can be full of impact and confusing.   Most children have a difficult time dealing with a fundamental shift in their family’s dynamics, and any added confusion is not helpful.  As best as you possibly can, you want to encourage the child to have a positive relationship with the other parent.  Although the other parent may have been a poor spouse, he/she might have some positive aspects to their parenting from which your child could benefit.   As children grow, they will discover which parent(s) are there for them, which parent(s) they can trust, and which parent(s) truly love them.  If you do your part, they will come to respect you for it when they get older.  If the other parent does not do their part, the child will recognize this as they mature – you don’t need to point it out to them every step along the way.

Often times throughout co-parenting, the child will need to transition from one parent’s care to the other’s care.  These transition times can be impressionable for the child, and they provide another opportunity to successfully co-parent.  In order for these interactions to be positive, both parents need to demonstrate a level of respect for the other person.  For the sake of the child, each parent should interact in a positive and cooperative way during these transitions.  A child can be quite in tune to a parent’s affect and body language, so each parent should be aware of how he/she is presenting during these transition times.  Each parent needs to demonstrate respect in what they say, as well as how they act.  If one parent is going to be late for the transition meeting, he/she should alert the other party to inform them of this development, therefore demonstrating respect for the other parent’s time and schedule.  Role modeling a healthy and respectful relationship with the other parent can be tremendously influential to the child’s development and happiness.

Co-parenting with an ex-partner can seem overwhelming, unbearable, and downright impossible at times.  However, when co-parenting is done correctly (through respect, healthy communication, and positive transitions), this process can become a little easier.  If you find yourself in this situation, please remember to keep the best interest of this child first and foremost.  When this perspective is taken, the co-parenting process can be successful.  Remember, you can only control yourself.  If you focus your efforts on becoming the best co-parent that you can be, hopefully the other parent will follow suit.

We at Anchor Counseling want to help you.  Please visit our website by clicking here.

If you would like any additional information on my own professional ideas or modalities of treatment please click here.

You can also reach us at 401.475.9979

Trevor Yingling, LMHC

Assistant Clinical Director

Anchor Counseling Center

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