If you are a separated or divorced parent, you need to communicate with your child’s other parent. Even though you are no longer living together, and, in some cases, especially because you are no longer living together, conflicts about your children (minor ones and major ones) may arise with greater frequency.
What do you do? Hopefully, you calmly discuss and resolve issues such as pick-ups and drop-offs, schedule changes, money, extracurricular activities, and family matters with your child’s other parent when your children cannot hear these conversations.
However, if you are like most separated or divorced parents, you find it quite challenging to peacefully reach common ground with your child’s other parent. Often, despite your best efforts to protect them, children see too much, hear too much and feel their parents’ simmering anger. Some children get a stomach ache every time they have to travel between their parents’ homes; some start to “act out” or withdraw; others may regress to behaviors such as clinging or baby talk.
Current research indicates that one of the most reliable predictors of a child’s success after their parents’ divorce is how well their parents get along. Even though the parents are no longer married, they need a basic relationship and functional communication capability in the interest of the children.
Recognizing that divorced parents can benefit from professional guidance during this transitional time, a new alternative dispute resolution (ADR) resource is becoming more widely available. This solution has many names – parent (or parenting) coordination, therapeutic mediation, and co-parent counseling are some of them – but the principles are comparable and the practicing professionals are similarly credentialed as mediators, mental health professionals and attorneys with specialized training regarding divorce and families.
Working within this non-adversarial ADR framework, parents are able to reach common ground about child-focused decisions. The professional provides feedback in the interest of the family as well as guidance to negotiate and solve parenting problems.
Parents face many changes and challenges regarding the interpersonal relationships and family dynamics that accompany divorce. A parent must function as an individual as well as “mom” or “dad.” As one household becomes two, relationships and boundaries must be redefined within the nuclear and extended family, and new communication patterns must be established to facilitate the healthy growth of parents and children through divorce.
The lives of all family members are touched as parents form new relationships, establish new living situations, and new work schedules. At the same time, the entire family must adapt to children’s new schools, new childcare needs, as well as natural infant, child, adolescent and teen development concerns. Extraordinary events such as illness or death create further challenges for the divorced family.
Often, parents have no idea where to turn for help. Here is the most traditional solution: Hire a lawyer (spend money). The other parent hires a lawyer (more money). Go to court (both parents give up their rights to make decisions and give that right to a judge who does not know your children or the judge may appoint a professional to help you – at your cost.).
You may be able to go to court without a lawyer (saving the attorney’s fees) but you would still be giving up your parental decision-making rights to the judge. Again, the judge may appoint a professional to help you – at your cost.
You could choose to do nothing, but then nothing will change and things will most likely get worse, especially for your children. But it does not have to be that way. Mediators and co-parenting professionals can help you develop the new skills you need. For more info, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.