Working to build a collaborative co-parenting relationship after divorce is filled with trials and tribulations. Often times, parents are tempted to throw in the towel rather than face the challenges associated with divorce. However, research suggests that a strong partnership in parenting with your former partner lightens the burden for your children. When you give your children the gift of a strong co-parent relationship and a healthy two home family, you are truly giving them one of the best gifts a parent can give. By following the suggestions below, you are committing yourself to this important goal.
View yourself as resilient and in control. Resilience is the capacity to recover readily from depression, serious health problems, divorce, death, and other traumatic events. Even after devastating tragedies, individuals are able to bounce back from hard times, rebuild their lives, and emerge stronger. Cultivate opportunities for personal growth. The road to resilience is often characterized by working through emotional distress and painful misfortunes. Dr. Ron Breazeale notes, “Resilience does not involve avoiding one’s feelings, it involves confronting and managing them”. Resilience has been shown to positively influence over well-being and can lower depression levels.
Build a Positive Self-esteem and Confidence in One’s Strengths and Abilities
Make a list of your strengths and determine how they might be useful in your co-parenting relationship. Being aware of what you are good at helps build confidence in yourself and ultimately your relationship with the other parent. Believe in yourself and your abilities. Become aware of your thoughts and beliefs. Consider the skills you have used to cope with challenging situations in the past and use those skills when interacting with your co-parent. Give yourself credit for making positive changes. Treat yourself with kindness and encouragement.
Create Clear Attainable Co-Parenting Goals
Working towards goals can give your co-parenting relationship a sense of purpose and reaching those goals will increase your confidence in the parenting partnership. Knowing what is important to your child(ren) can help make sure you know where to focus your attention. Develop realistic goals and break them down into achievable steps. Small accomplishments propel you forward while building optimism. Be as precise as possible when creating your goals.
Practice Effective Problem Solving
You can’t change the fact that differences in opinions happen. View them as opportunities to improve the co-parenting relationship. When critical differences do happen, try to work hard to negotiate in good faith. Brainstorm possible solutions, evaluate the options and pick the solution. Then, document your agreement and decide on contingencies, monitoring and evaluation. Problem solving involves methods and skills to find the best solutions.
Manage Strong Feelings
Thinking clearly allows you to take action without behaving impulsively and responding only out of emotion. Emotions can be overwhelming. Allow yourself to feel your emotions, but resist acting on them when you are upset. Creating a workable co-parenting relationship requires that you use your thinking to manage your feelings. Develop coping strategies to control your reactions and behaviors associated with co-parenting efforts. When you are calm you can see more effective solutions to meet your needs.
Look for Solutions rather than Focus on the Problems
Be curious and change your perspective and how you respond to co-parenting struggles. Use creative and critical thinking skills to solve and find solutions rather than dwelling on the problem. Don’t focus on the other parent or the past. View your co-parenting relationship in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective.
Understand You Can’t Control Your Co-Parent
It is unreasonable for you to believe that you can control the other parent’s thoughts and behavior. Remember the Serenity Prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” This prayer can help you focus on circumstances you can alter.
An optimistic outlook will help you to maintain healthy expectations and hopefulness that good things will happen. Look on the more promising side of things and expect the most promising outcome. Create an image of what you want to happen in the co-parenting relationship and take decisive action. View difficulties as temporary.
Reach out for help
Do not hesitate to reach out to a helping professional such as a mediator, co-parenting counselor or parenting coordinator. These professionals can offer perspective, skills, as well as feedback, and possibly even prevent problems before they occur.
Resist throwing in the towel. Face co-parenting challenges with resilience and strength. A strong parenting partnership with your co-parent will provide a healthy two-home family for your child(ren).
Ann Marie Termini, Ed.S., M.S., LPC