Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Suggestions for Co-Parenting

If you are embarking on the journey of divorce, have children, and have decided that you will Co-Parent together, let me be the first to congratulate you. As long as there is no history of abuse toward the kids, seeing both parents on a regular basis is healthy for them and in their best interest. Selfishly we'd all like to have our children 100% of the time (I know I would) but each parent most likely has positive traits that he or she can pass on to the children. Plus, any research you find will tell you each parent's relationship with their children is the primary way children learn to get along with each gender.

Now the hard part: if you have ANY residual feelings of anger, resentment, or sadness over the break up of your marriage, it is SO hard not to have that spill over into your co-parenting relationship. In the worst instance, the other parent's time with the children can be compromised or denied, support payments with held, or one parent may bad mouth the other to the children. Let me tell you, sometimes it's all I can do to just bite my lip and not say something when I feel I'm being provoked by my Ex. I'm sure she'd tell you the same. At times we're both unsuccessful in keeping things civil. We really struggle to get along. It doesn't help that neither of us are wilting flowers.

Recently, we decided to see a Child Psychologist. There were several issues regarding the other that we just couldn't come to agreement on, so we thought it best to have a "professional referee" in the room to give us strong guidance, with the emphasis on strong. A bit humbling to be put in your place, but as the therapist continues to remind us, she's only there for our daughter's best interest. Follow what she says and Miss M will be the big winner.

Since the Ex and I are still in the conflict phase (although thankfully we've never fought in front of my daughter since our separation), our therapist thought it best for her to establish some ground rules for Ex and me to follow in our co-parenting relationship. I thought I'd share them with my new friends:

  1. The past is no longer relevant to current decision making and discussions. Leave the past out. Discuss only the issue of today. (man is that one hard!)

  2. Do not insult each other in emails or in person. Vow never to insult the parent of your child. You can discuss without insults. If you have residual post marital issues to work out, save them for a safe therapy session (either joint child therapy when the child is not present, or with your individual therapist).

  3. The Spirit of Sharing the joy of parenting your child is the guide to all discussions. Therfore, any time sharing which needs to be discussed, especially Holiday time, will be discussed understanding both parents' desire to be with their child with the goal of finding ways to make this work for everyone, especially the child.

  4. Be respectful of the other parent. You child is watching and learning how he/she will be treated and who he/she will select for a mate.

  5. STAY GRATEFUL on a daily basis that you are fighting for more time with your beloved child. This is a great fight (discussion) to have!
I love that last one.

I will tell you from experience that this is SO much harder than it looks. Progress not perfection though. I've stumbled way more than I care to admit, but the best thing I can do is just dust myself off and get right back in there. Miss M is the one who will benefit the most!


Mass Hole Mommy said...

Co-parenting is definiltey harder than it looks. My ex and I are past the conflict phase, finally after 2 years, but I still wish he would move to the North Pole and never bother us again! It is absolutley important for both parents to be actively involved in the kids lives. Unfortunately, my kids dad has to work 3 jobs to make his child support payments, so he sees them a lot less than he would like.

Anonymous said...

I just can't even imagine not letting the past influence the current decisions. I acknowledge that it would be ideal.... but I guess I feel so much anger toward my ex about what he did, and I feel like he owes me. I don't know that that's fair, but there it is.

I love the idea of seeing a child psychologist. I do want what's best for my kids, and maybe that would help me sorting that out.

But if I was told "What your ex did doesn't matter now," I would be very angry. How can it not matter? He tore our family apart and now I have to live with the consequences.

Anonymous said...

My ex and I have a 50/50 co-parenting relationship, and let me tell you, it's tough. It's really hard not to let residual feelings about the person spill into our interactions regarding our children. It's also hard recognizing that I have no control over HIS choices...the only thing I can do is conduct myself in a way that I can be proud of. I have't always done that in the past, but every day is a new one, isn't it?

Kudos to you to making the best effort you can to ensure a happy life for your daughter. :)

Big City Dad said...

Runningleap, I hear you. I so struggle with that. My ex cheated on me as well, was an inattentive mother, and in general turned out to be a completely different person than she presented during dating and engagement. I continue to work hard at letting go of my resentment toward her and would be ecstatic if I never had to talk to her again. That's not the case though, so I've had to find a way to deal with it. At first, CT's suggestion about the past seemed offensive to me too: Ex has turned out to be one of the most manipulative, dishonest persons I've ever met and her actions during our marriage show this. Then CT explained that even if I'm 100% correct about Ex, unless she's been proven to be an unfit mother, focusing on workable solutions to today's problems AS THEY RELATE TO MY DAUGHTER are unrelated to Ex's marital behavior. The Spirit with which we're co-parenting is to provide the healthiest enviornment in either home, not use Miss M as "collateral" during arguments, and to bring that little one up as healthy as possible. The focus, therfore, is OFF of ME and MY PAIN, and on my daughter's well being. It's not about me anymore but if there are issues I need to work out, that's what my therapist is for. So hard but compartmentalizing things in this manner really helps me (when I can do it). Keep trying.

KiddosDad said...

Thankfully, I have gotten past all of those issues with my ex. She basically left my daughter and I for her boss, started partying until all hours of the night and was in general a terrible person to be around. I took over as Mr. Mom and didn't look back. I'm now at a place where 1 1/2 years later, I just feel nothing about the situation. I told her how I felt, asked to go to counseling, she refused, so I immediately began focusing on my daughter. Now her mom sees what fun we have going on vacation, doing stuff around town, and what being a good parent is all about. She herself has become a better parent and I totally trust that kiddos time with her will be spent well and she is well taken care of. In fact, I decided to let her have her for a whole week this week because of heavy test week in Calculus and Physics. I hope you get there to BigCityDad. It is nice when you feel like you don't have to be responsible for not only your actions, but your exes as well.

dadshouse said...

Good points, all. I'm divorced 10 years, and my ex and I have an amicable co-parenting relationship. We put our differences behind us, and try to do what's best for the kids. We do a lot of our nitty gritty communicating in email. It removes emotional charge, for sure. Face time, we update each other on the kids, but try not to discuss issues that might turn into a fight. Successful co-parenting is worth it!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

All of this presupposes 2 parents with the same objectives and priorities: the child's welfare. When that isn't the case, all bets are off.

It if is the case, your daughter is lucky, and so are both parents in the long run. Putting differences behind you takes time, and character. Hopefully you will both remember that, and if not, the therapist will remind you that it is about Miss M. Her future. Her world.


NYC Single Mom said...

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment otherwise I would not have discovered your site.

Needless to say, your comments on working it out with your ex is somewhat (you may not think so) comforting from a guy's perspective. Even though I decided to become a mom on my own and dont have the co-parenting issues you face, I have sat through enough single mom stories to fill a book that it gives me hope that there are men out there who are making an effort to be parents. Goodl luck and I will be following your journey.

Anonymous said...

i agree with dailyplateofcrazy. this would be an ideal situation, albeit a really tough task if you ask me, but again, the child is worth it right?

we couldn't do this. i wish we could, but i have full legal and physical custody for a reason. i wish that we could have those discussions but right now he is on a need to know basis.

now single dad's don't get harsh. my ex is a prescription drug addict who has a multitude of issues. but i suck it in. i'm polite to him in front of the girls, i give him copies of report cards when i see him, i tell him when they went to the doctor or dentist.

inside it makes me sick to my stomach to see him, but i smile and wave. i guess that's good co-parenting, lol.

Big City Dad said...

Blue Sky, TOTALLY different situation and sounds like you're doing the right thing by your girls. Our first job is to protect our kids, even if that means from the other parent.

Lauren said...

Great post, Big! I think your child psychologist is a smart person, and you as well, for sharing her guidelines with us.

Your recent tweet led me here today, and I'm curious... It's been four months since you originally posted this. How has it been going with you and Ex and your ability to stick to these guidelines, and most importantly, have you seen an impact on Miss M's experience of life in general?

Post a Comment