Understanding What Co-Parenting Is Not
Divorce is devastating to children and can have negative impacts on them that reverberate even into adulthood. Research shows that parents have the power to minimize stress and harmful emotions in their children, and that has led to an emphasis on co-parenting by judges, mental health experts and divorce attorneys. But co-parenting can be challenging even in the best of times, and it is often helpful for newly divorced parents to step back and consider what the co-parenting relationship is not as opposed to what it is.
Co-Parenting Is Not Easy
Mental health professionals warn that many parents have unrealistic expectations at the start of the co-parenting process. We live in a modern world where we are inundated by social media that often shows people in a controlled and favorable light. The biggest issue with a distorted perception is that it can cause you to be unfairly hard on yourself. Everyone stumbles trying to get co-parenting right, and you are not a bad parent simply because you made a mistake. As with all worthwhile endeavors in life, making co-parenting successful takes time, and it will absolutely get better as you continue to work at it. But be mindful that things getting better and you feeling better are not always going to coincide.
Co-Parenting Is Not for All Relationships
Co-parenting is currently the best tool that we have as a society to avoid the negative outcomes that many children of divorce experience. We also know that remaining in an unhappy or otherwise unhealthy marriage is not good for children either, and that puts divorcing parents in an unenviable situation. Good co-parenting is what will protect your children, but what if you cannot make it work? Does that make you a horrible person? No. Co-parenting is not for everyone. If you were in a toxic relationship, there is a good chance that co-parenting is not for you. You may have to turn to some other form of shared parenting, such as parallel parenting. What is important is that you appreciate the child’s needs and do everything you can to meet them with the tools that you do have available.
Co-Parenting Is Not for All Phases of a Relationship
It is important to be practical. What is ideal may not be what is feasible. If a relationship was toxic or a divorce acrimonious, it may not be advisable to enter a co-parenting relationship right away. That does not mean that you cannot work toward an eventual productive co-parenting arrangement. You should also always be aware that there could come a period when the relationship needs a timeout. Consider a situation in which one of the ex-spouses is getting remarried. This can be difficult on the other parent and stir up a lot of emotions, and a therapist may even recommend transitioning into parallel parenting for a while in order to have time to work through those feelings and proceed in a healthy manner.
Co-Parenting Is Not a Sexual or Romantic Relationship
Co-parenting is a completely different dynamic than the one that existed before the transition. Couples that were in a solely sexually intimate relationship can find this transition quite difficult because there were never any relationship pillars. Therapy is usually recommended but particularly in these cases as the co-parents need to work together to build that foundation. In scenarios where the relationship was romantic, it can be difficult to leave that relationship behind and move forward into this new relationship where you have to put the child’s best interests before your own.
Co-Parenting Is Not a Dictatorship
Co-parenting is a relationship through which two people work together to protect and nurture a child. Even in a situation where one parent has custody and the other does not, it must be a partnership. Divorced parents have even less control in other forms of shared parenting, and as in any relationship, it is necessary to make concessions and compromises at times. This truth can be very difficult for the person prone to micromanagement, and the anxiety that drives that need to control can become exacerbated and lead to a host of other problems that undermine the joint effort. People who recognize these characteristics in their own personalities are encouraged to seek counseling through which they can acquire tools that let them deal with the fundamental problems rather than focus on the symptoms.
Co-Parenting Is Not Static
Not only is co-parenting not static, but it cannot be so for the well-being of the child. There is immense change within a child’s journey into adulthood, and your approach to parenting has to change with it in order to meet the needs of the child at that phase of their life. It is also important to recognize that you will grow over time, as will the other parent, and your relationship will need to change to reflect that. The good news is that experience will make this process easier, and each time you make it through to the other side of a change, you will be better equipped to navigate the next one.
Co-Parenting Is Not a Competition
Successful co-parenting is all about teamwork. You, your former spouse and your child or children all make up a team and can play an integral role in achieving goals that benefit everyone. Co-parents need to be united when it comes to the children. Even if you had a disagreement and had to make a compromise or concession, your children should not experience that divergence. Always respect a child’s right to a unique relationship with their other parent, and never say or do anything that can put your child in the middle. It is very easy to inadvertently say something that can make a child feel as if they have to take a side.
Co-Parenting Is Not a Sacrifice
All parents will make sacrifices for the betterment of their children, but there is an important distinction to be made between making some sacrifices and sacrificing who you are and what makes you happy. Be mindful that a healthy you—physically, mentally and emotionally—is important to the well-being of the children as well. You should put the children before yourself, as all parents should, but you should also give yourself the time and freedom to be a well-functioning individual. Spend time with friends. Enjoy your hobbies. Seek romance. Invest in your career, and do all the other things that make you whole.
Legal Assistance for Co-Parents in Hackensack
If you are a New Jersey parent and you need some guidance, the Law Offices of Kelly Berton Rocco is here to help. Our law firm has been assisting parents since 1988 and has more than 40 years of collective experience serving the community. We are here for you if you are considering divorce, already in the divorce process or now navigating post-divorce co-parenting challenges. To meet with a divorce attorney, call our office at 201-343-0078, or contact us online.