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5 Important Things to Be A Stable Co-Parent

The reality of being a co-parent can be quite sobering but you can get through it if you focus on these 5 elements: Self-care, Level-Headed Support, Grieve Your Relationship, Make Home a Neutral Space, and Commit to Your Child's Happiness.

Lotus Therapies|Stable Co-parenting|Cumming, GA|Lawrenceville, GA

Self-Care

It is important for parents in a co-parenting relationship to not only nurture their children but to also nurture themselves. Self-care is the maintenance of your physical, mental, and inner self. How you treat yourself will speak to how you will be able to cope with the transition of your co-parenting relationship and life transitions in general.  Terri DiMatteo, LPC  of Open Door Therapy suggests that while it may seem counter-intuitive for divorcing parents to focus on themselves while in the throes of divorce or transitioning during to being a co-parent, in truth it is actually one of the healthiest things a divorcing parent can model for his or her child. By doing so, a parent is ‘saying’ (by example and in lifestyle) that during times of heightened stress and uncertainty it’s especially important to take care of oneself when managing the additional stress.

Level-Headed Support

We all require connections with friends or family to be a support through trials of life. When maneuvering through your co-parenting transition, separation, or divorce you may seek comfort and advice from friends and family. But all advice isn't good advice even from people we love. Sometimes confiding in others can make the situation worse because the people we have chosen to confide in are also emotionally invested in your situation and they can't always be objective. Seek a professional if you are looking to work through emotions, thoughts, and getting a better understanding of how to move forward. 

Grieving Your Relationship

Although you want to make sure that your children are okay and provide them a healthy environment, it is important to grieve what you have lost. Whatever that loss is for you, (the relationship itself, loss of the family unit, loss of finances, your dreams connected to your ex-partner) healthy grieving will help you deal with the emotions related to that loss and adequate support will help you reorganize your life based on your learnings about your relationship, yourself, and your experiences. You will most likely develop new values and perspectives on life, and you will naturally begin to think of new horizons that you may never have thought about before. 

Home: A Neutral Space

Your relationship with your ex can be in a constant state of chaos but you should always commit to having a safe, neutral environment for you and your child. This means being accountable to maintaining that space by:

  • making sure you don't speak ill of the dead (the old relationship that is)
  • not using your child as a confidant
  • encouraging your child to foster a relationship with their parent if they are comfortable doing so
  • respecting the child's relationship and love for their other parent
  • when they go low you go high-refrain from arguments and all-around nastiness especially in front of the child.

Committing to Your Child's Happiness

Committing to you child's happiness is the ultimate goal of your co-parenting experience. Your sacrifices to maintain control of emotions and creating a neutral, safe space for them is what they will remember in the end. Pay attention to your child's ques regarding how they are handling the transition and seek additional support or help if they are having an especially hard time adjusting. Stay the course, because your character and actions DO matter...and because the children are always watching. The time, thoughts, patience, laughter, fun, and love that you share with your child will have the most meaning.

 

 

References:

1. Hart, Julie (2016, February 2). Grieving When Your Relationship Ends: The 3 Important Phases. The Hart Centre. Retrieved from http://thehartcentre.com.au/grieving-when-your-relationship-ends-the-3-important-phases/
2. University of Washington. (n.d). Healthy grieving. Retrieved from https://www.washington.edu/counseling/resources/resources-for-students/healthy-grieving/
3.Philyaw, D.,Thomas, M.D. (2013) Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive in Two Households after Divorce. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger. 

3 Co-Parenting Styles: Which Are You?

In Co-Parenting 101 by Deesha Philyaw and Michael Thomas, they created a simple explanation of 3 different types of coparenting styles. These styles are not based on how you parent your children but more about how you interact, communicate, cope, and coexist as coparents. Philyaw and Thomas define 3 different types of co-parenting styles as Super Friends, Business Partners, Oil and Water (I'm sure you can figure out what this one means). 

Lotus Therapies| Co-parenting Styles|Cumming, GA|Lawrenceville, GA

Super Friends are "parents whose co-parenting relationship is characterized by low conflict, flexibility, easy communication, and congeniality."  

Super Friends Co-Parenting Style display:

  • open respect for each other
  • ongoing communication
  • low conflict
  • all interactions and demonstrations are motivated by the child's wellbeing

Although this is an ideal situation, parents must be aware of and maintain boundaries so that children won't confuse respect and kindness with the possibility of a reconciliation between their parents. With all the god intentions of having a super-friends parenting style it still does not address or shield children from being hurt by the divorce. It is best to always keep communication open for children to express ongoing feelings about the effects of the divorce.

Lotus Therapies| Co-parenting Styles|Cumming, GA|Lawrenceville, GA

The business partners style is "characterized by the more formal interaction, strict adherence to schedules and written plans, and a basic civility." This is a "stick to the plan" style. These types of parents will have interactions that only that pertain to the parenting plan or keep to agreed upon schedules and they try to remain emotionally detached as it pertains to the other party.

Business Partners Co-Parenting Style display:

  • clear boundaries
  • emotions remain strictly in check
  • children's lives are not intertwined
  • minimum communication

The Business Partners style is useful for parents trying to get a specific message to and from the other parent without mudding the waters. This style can backfire and create a way for the child to manipulate or take advantage of minimum communication. 

Lotus Therapies| Co-parenting Styles|Cumming, GA|Lawrenceville, GA

Oil and Water coparenting style is defined as "a near and total breakdown of communication, high conflict, mistrust, and competitiveness." Just picture an all out nuclear war or a ticking time bomb.

Oil and Water Parents are:

  • a constant obstruction
  • verbal/physical altercation
  • unable to compromise
  • holding onto pain/anger/hurt from the unsuccessful relationship

An oil and water parent can be very reactive and find it very difficult to interact with each other. This is the most toxic of the three types of coparenting styles. It creates an atmosphere of inadequacy, insecurity, and fear for the child.

Creating a Positive Experience

In order to create a positive coprarenting experience, you have to decide to heal from the past and put your child first. Always strive to exhibit the behavior that you want for your relatipship as a coparent. Just because your ex is an oil and water parent doesn't mean you can't be a super friends parent.

Focus on:

  • always being positive
  • creating and maintain an open dialogue with your child 
  • always exhibiting kindness and refrain from getting sucked into arguments
  • LOVE on your kid-ESPECIALLY if you have a particularly shitty ex 
  • Be sure to create a safe space for your child
  • NOT talking shit about your EX around your child
  • Maintaining self-care, Love on yourself and Get help if you need it

Co-parenting can be rewarding and a positive experience. Having adequate support is crucial to having a successful co-parenting relationship. There are co-parenting groups like the one I provide, Quiet the Wars Co-parenting Group that are available to support parents through the transition of co-parenting by offering therapeutic support and referrals to legal professionals.

 

 

 

Philyaw, D.,Thomas, M.D. (2013) Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive in Two Households after Divorce. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.