Co-parenting is hard. Maybe one of the hardest things you will do. In any other relationship, you can choose how much contact to have with an ex, but when co-parenting you have to stay engaged to make good decisions for your children. Co-parenting counseling can help you learn how to manage stress, regulate emotions, and communicate effectively so that you can reduce conflict and create a healthy environment for children to grow and thrive.
Divorce is really hard on kids
The family they know is changing, they are now moving between different homes, and they worry, “If mom and dad can stop loving each other, will they stop loving me?”
Research shows that children of high conflict divorce often feel lonely, anxious, and insecure. They may find that they are taking care of their parents’ needs, and that they can’t just relax and be a kid. As children of high conflict divorce grow up, they may worry that they will fail in their own relationships, leading to greater anxiety and depression as adults.
Children of divorce need help navigating the changes they experience. Many times, kids feel responsible for the conflict between their parents. They may think, “I’m the reason my parents are fighting and so unhappy.” Although we may tell our children that they are not the cause of their parents’ conflict, children believe what they see. If conflict continues around custody, after school activities, and child support payments, children will continue to feel the weight of responsibility for the turmoil in their families.
Rather than conflict, children need calm and secure environments to grow and thrive. They need their parents to learn how to coexist with one another to help reduce the pain experienced with the break up of the family. Kids need parents who function well together to help them adapt to their new family structure.
What does Co-Parenting Counseling look like?
I initially meet with each parent individually to learn about family history, presenting problems, and the needs of the children. This is a good time to address any concerns about the process of co-parenting counseling and start to set some goals for our time together.
Once individual sessions are complete, we move into joint sessions. In our first joint session we will set some ground rules for our work together and identify priorities regarding children’s needs and the issues to be addressed in our sessions.
I provide the following assistance in co-parenting counseling:
- Helping parents inform their children about an upcoming separation
- Creating visitation agreements
- Facilitating productive communication between parents focused on constructive decision making rather than re-enacting conflicts from the past
- Providing support and guidance through the difficult process of rebuilding a new family structure.
Some high conflict parents may need to learn to disengage and limit contact with one another in order to reduce the stress and trauma their children are feeling. These parents may need to engage in parallel parenting – a more limited form of co-parenting. In these cases, we work on identifying specifically what topics are to be communicated and how those communications take place.
If you are looking for additional support around skills found to be most helpful for co-parenting, please visit MindSkills® for Co-Parents.