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Co-parenting: You May Not Get There From Here

treasure-map-by-becris
Image courtesy of Becris at freedigitalphotos.net

 

Co-parenting, AKA cooperative parenting is an obsession with Family Court professionals.  It may even meet the level of addiction with some of them.  System-wide group think reigns over common sense and good judgment, especially when they don’t know there are other options available to parents.

Even the term co-parenting is not understood across the board.  Some Family Court professionals consider co-parenting to mean a shortened version of cooperative parenting, while others use the term meaning, “jointly or “together”.  Still, no matter how one looks at it, I wonder how anyone can do anything “together” or “jointly” if they are not doing so cooperatively.  That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

For example, if I want to paint the living room blue, but my spouse wants to paint the room red, we might have to find a compromise.  We might say, “Fine.  Let’s paint two walls blue and two walls red.  If we could agree to do that and agree on which two walls each of us could paint as we desired, it might get done and we might both be able to live with it, but we’d have to be able to communicate rationally about that and see each other’s point of view and then come to an agreement about the particulars of how it is going to work.    There would also have to be a basic level of trust that both people would follow through and not sabotage the other’s plan or destroy what the other person has been working on.

If two people could not decide between the colors red and blue or were unable to decide which two walls each person could paint (maybe there is some inequality to the open wall space available), they might decide to blend the colors.  The problem with that is neither person would be achieving anything close to their original goal and they would both have to really like purple because that is what the result would be.  It would take flexibility on the part of both people.  It would also take respect for each other’s needs or wants and the same basic level of trust as in the first scenario.  Even then, blending has different meanings to different people.  Blending red and blue could mean making the room purple or it could mean one color with polka dots of the other, painting stripes of both colors equally (and again, what is equal to one may not be equal in the eyes of the other).  No matter how the compromises happen, they still have to involve good communication, flexibility, trust, respect, understanding, balance, a sense of fairness, etc., etc.  It is still going to involve some level of agreement to resolve the situation.  Otherwise, you will end up in the same old room, with the same old paint and nothing will change.

That is the same problem with co-parenting.  People can either do it or not do it.  It may mean different things to different parents and it may even mean different things to different professionals.  When parents cannot do it, they are accused of being “rigid” thinkers.  It can be true that neither parent wants to change or wants to change their perspective, but it is often really a matter of differing perspectives.  My perspective on it is this, we have alternatives to co-parenting.  When professionals will not allow those different ideas to come into play, they are the ones with “rigid” thinking.  What difference should it make to them as long as it decreases the conflict for the children?  That is really why the professionals are in place anyway, to decrease the conflict.

High conflict Central accepts a simple fact and that is many people cannot co-parent.  Even in happily married households, parents are doing things other than co-parenting.  We don’t rule out the possibility that people have the ability to get there if they are both willing to accept the situation and are willing to change and make a better life for their children, but we don’t start at co-parenting unless it is already happening.  We actually start at where you are.  What has happened to you?  How has it affected you?  How has it impacted your children?  What is the history between the parents?  What is the level of trust?  What is the level of respect?  Where is each parent at in their healing process?  Where are you at with your parenting skills as a single, divorced parent?  How much do you know about what is happening to you in Family Court and why it is happening?  That is where we start because all of those things need resolution before you can be ready, willing and able to co-parent.  We also know that even if you get there, co-parenting only works when both parents are ready, willing and able, and can approach the situation with good faith.  If one or both parents has a strong desire to keep hurting the other, co-parenting will not happen because trust can never be built under those conditions.

Parents who can co-parent, do co-parent.  They do so without a court order or any of the watchdog professionals that get appointed to make parents play nice in the sandbox.  High conflict parents should not be asked to start with co-parenting.  There are other ways to help the children.

An excerpt from “The Parenting Coordinator and Consultant Survival Guide”:

Because these are the types of relationships present in high conflict divorce situations, it is my opinion that family court needs to get out of the business of forced co-parenting. When you have parents who only know conflicted parenting, the bar is set too high to expect them to get to co-parenting. It is too high a leap for their skill set! High conflict parents could be allowed to use the parallel parenting style, unless and until they are healed enough to raise the bar to co-parenting.
We know that conflicted parenting is the worst situation for children in the middle. We also know that co-parenting is the best style for children of divorce, but there seems to be an unwarranted reluctance on the part of court authorities to consider the benefits that parallel parenting can offer in high conflict cases. I really don’t understand the reluctance at all.  Court professionals expect parents to jump from worst to best all in one shot:

CONFLICTED PARENTING >>>>CO-PARENTING

(WORST)                                                      (BEST)

That is quite a stretch for anyone, let alone, parents who may not have the communication and relationship skills necessary to make co-parenting work. If the professionals would give up some of their own rigid thinking, we could help parents go from here to here:

 

CONFLICTED PARENTING >>>> PARALLEL PARENTING
        (WORST)                                       (BETTER)

 

At least that would be a step in the right direction and give parents a chance to settle into their own lives with the children, learning to parent separately, and if they are so motivated,  gain some important skills before they move into co-parenting. Some parents may have to stick with parallel parenting to keep the peace, but at least a parallel parenting style would move them away from conflicted parenting and offer something better for their children. If parents did well moving from conflicted parenting to parallel parenting, they may gain the confidence to take it another step:

 
PARALLEL PARENTING >>>>CO-PARENTING
(BETTER THAN CONFLICTED)          (BEST)

 

That is my hope for change in the system. I’d like to see professionals have the ability to accept change for the better even when it is not the ideal. They should seek improvement in steps, rather than demand big changes that parents aren’t always able to understand. In my opinion, at least we would get parents out of the conflicted style of parenting and everyone benefits from doing that!

For now, we have a system of professionals who don’t realize that their rigid thinking about co-parenting is just as bad as parents who refuse to change. They continue to push co-parenting against all common sense and good judgement.

 

If you find family court, the professionals rigid thinking and co-parenting to be a mind numbing endeavor, give us a call.  We love to talk to high conflict parents and help them put a stop to the nonsense.  We feel so much joy when we see you and your children experience a little peace after trauma.  It isn’t as hard as you think, and we don’t care if your ex participates or not, as a matter of fact, we prefer to work with parents one on one.  It is always a free consult, and we offer some free e-courses, as well.  Contact us to learn more!

High Conflict Central was created by Susan Carpenter.  She is a relationship coach, Author and Instructor with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology.  Her focus is on communication, relationships, family conflict and dynamics, and gender differences in communication, stress management, parenting and conflict.  She is an expert on relationships involving high conflict divorce, domestic violence, adult children of alcoholics/dysfunction, adults who experienced trauma as a child.  Susan is also the owner of Life’s Doors Mediation in Golden Valley, Minnesota,  where she is a qualified rule 114 mediator, parenting consultant, parenting time expediter and parent coach.  She wrote the book, “The Parenting Coordinator and Consultant Survival Guide” to help parents understand that process to utilize their PC more effectively.  You can contact Susan at connect@highconflictcentral.com or by calling (800) 516-2446.