Marcie Shaoul Founder and Director of Rolling Stone Coaching discusses the challenges and rewards of co-parenting.
Co-parenting can seem idyllic from far away but for those on the inside you know it is actually an extremely fragile place to be. Unexpected announcements, decisions taken unilaterally, agreements being suddenly disregarded can all result in the status quo being rocked. Co-parenting is rarely the easy path to take. But usually it’s the best path for the kids.
I write a lot about the different angles of co-parenting, but sometimes it’s really important to pause and remind ourselves of the foundation stone. Why are we co-parenting? Isn’t it easier to just revert to traditional custody arrangements, to not worry so much about what we’re saying in front of the children? To exclude our ex from the kids lives’ so everyone can have a clean break?
Well, no. Co-parenting – working together to bring up your children, even when you are no longer in a relationship – brings your children stability, structure and safety. When children have those things they are able to handle the fact that their parents aren’t together and they can to learn that people can have working relationships even if things haven’t worked out. That’s an important lesson to learn. When the parental bubble is kept whole, even though the relationship may have broken, then children are able to be resilient and thrive.
I’m often asked the following questions:
‘What’s the most important thing that makes co-parenting relationships work?’
Two things. Firstly and most importnaly it’s all about communication. How you speak to your ex, how you message them, your body language – it’s all crucial. You’re aiming for neutrality not hostility. And if you can get even some of the way there, it will be helpful.
It’s also being brave enough to choose to see things from the perspective of your children and it’s being actively conscious about the impact of your actions on your kids and taking responsibility for those. It can be a hard shift to make when we are emotionally tangled up with our exes. But getting some help can really offer you some good tools to have to be able to deal with that.
And: ‘Why is co-parenting so hard?’
When we are worried about losing our children it can really drive us to make uninformed and emotional decisions. At times when we are hurting or angry it is difficult to get into the perspective of our child or our ex in order to make a well-rounded decision. When we can do that, and we can get to a place where we understand that our ex also loves our child, it really helps the fear drop away and helps us to move forward to decide things that are best for our kids, and not ourselves. But it’s hard because we have to choose to step away from our hot emotions, and to see things objectively.
‘What is co-parent coaching?’
‘The Co-Parent WayÔ’ has been borne of ten years of research and practical experience and coaching techniques. It is one of the tools for early intervention that can help us stay out of the family courts. The underlying premise is to help parents work to get to a place where they are able to communicate with each other about their children in a non-confrontational, non-emotional way. It’s called transactional communication. What this does is liberate parents to be able to see clearly what is needed for the children, without all the noise of their previous relationship and the fallout of the breakup getting in the way. Our relationship with our ex has to become the solution and not the problem. Co-parent coaching is a really practical approach to bringing up your child together. It’s all about moving forward with some useful techniques.
‘What are the rewards of Co-Parenting?’
When co-parenting works well it can bring the original child so much. Access to new partners and their experience and perspective can really enhance a child’s life. Yes it’s hard, but if we remember that it’s our children that are benefitting, rather than ourselves who are losing out. It can help.
Co-parenting is not an easy journey, I really understand that. But even getting some of the way down that road, will help set our kids up more securely for the future.