Co-parenting can be likened to a minefield.
It can look beautiful from far away, but upon closer examination, you can see disturbance in the soil, and you know there could be an unexploded mine waiting to damage your world.
The co-parenting relationship is much the same. Unexpected announcements, decisions taken unilaterally, disregarding agreements can all explode the minefield. And constantly watching yourself for what you say, is not a very relaxing place to be!
I write a lot about the different angles of co-parenting, but sometimes it’s really important to 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?
Why is co-parenting so important?
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 bad relationships can work out. When the parental bubble is kept whole, even though the relationship may have broken, then children are able to be resilient and thrive.
As a coach, I’m often asked the following questions:
‘What’s the most important thing that makes co-parenting relationships work?’
It’s 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. It can be a hard shift to make when we are emotionally tangled up with our exes. But at Rolling Stone Coaching, the Co-Parent Way (TM) coaching process and the tools that go with it enable that.
And: ‘Why is it so hard?’
When we are worried about losing our children it can really drive us to make uninformed and emotional decisions. 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. But 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.
‘What is co-parent coaching?’
‘The Co-Parent Way (TM)’ 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. And I call that 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.
‘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.
Marcie Shaoul is Founder and Director of Rolling Stone Coaching. She sits on Resolution’s Parenting After Parting Committee and developed The Co-Parent Way (TM), the only specialist coaching programme to separated parents work together to become successful co-parents.