By Anna Seewald
Are You Ready For It?
When you got divorced, you probably thought that the divorce was the end. It was. It was the end of your couple’s relationship. Now you’re entering a new era, a whole new territory, and a whole new relationship.
And you are not entering into this uncharted territory with a whole lot of confidence, rather a medley of big feelings.
Instead of co-parenting haphazardly, taking a few intentional steps might be helpful in the long run.
Are you ready emotionally to co-parent now?
Have you started your emotional processing or you are overwhelmed with the sense of loss, despair, confusion, isolation and even helplessness?
Yes, co-parenting is a relationship. And only you get to decide the nature of that relationship. But first, you need to be ready for it emotionally. That readiness will help you to bring your best self forward, even if you will be co-parenting with a difficult, toxic or narcissistic ex. You need to find your place, your role and participate maturely and responsibly.
Honor Your Emotions and Do Your Healing
Divorce is a loss and it can bring up a lot of emotions; anger, guilt, shame, resentment, fear, revenge, sadness… Sometimes it can even be traumatic. You need space to heal. You need time to heal.
While you may feel unjust and hurt and want to punish the other party now, it’s not a good game plan.
“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”
― Mark Twain
Get Clear on Your Coparenting Intentions
Here are some questions to start thinking about.
How do you define co-parenting? What does co-parenting mean to you?
What do you want from your co-parenting relationship? How do you see your role?
Take some time to reflect upon this. It’s a crucial step in moving forward with dignity.
Even though you as players are the same, the new play that you’ve entered has a completely new script. It takes time to adjust and readjust. To find your style, your voice and become comfortable. You need to learn new ways of communicating.
Being clear, concise and compassionate towards yourselves and especially one another is what I call the C’s of effective communication.
Keep Your Eyes on the Bigger Picture
Your kids are watching and learning all about divorce, conflict and human relationships. What do you want them to learn?
The process of divorce can be a long process filled with a lot of emotions and in that process you also need to make various, sometimes life changing decisions. Naturally, when emotions are running high because of the pain and disappointment over your relationship, the uncertainty of not knowing what’s coming next, the last thing you want to work on is your co-parenting relationship. If you’re not feeling emotionally prepared to work on your co-parenting relationship yet, be gentle with yourself and take some time to process it all.
- attend therapy
- enlist the help of friends and family
- strengthen your social support system
And when you’re ready do your best to be cooperative and reasonable knowing that your co-parent might be struggling with similar challenges.
Seek Co-Parenting Help
Starting the journey of co-parenting through the help of a neutral third party can be extremely helpful.
An experienced and knowledgeable co-parenting therapist can guide you in this process, assist you in setting expectations and agreements, help you learn and master effective communication skills, establish boundaries, create space to talk about your common parenting goals and give you a chance to be heard in terms of your own needs regarding your children.
You may find it difficult to attend a co-parenting session together. You may feel on the fence, you may have no faith, you may feel that it won’t work, you may have all sorts of thoughts and doubts and rightfully so. This is a new thing. And given the history of your relationship, the current state, the divorce, no one would expect a miraculous outcome.
Be The Best Co-Parent You Can Be
Sometimes parents who were not the best parenting team during marriage become the best co-parents.
What are your expectations?
Don’t let the old ways of being a couple and a parent before define this new relationship.
From working with parents I know that co-parenting is a big continuum, from a very acrimonious, dysfunctional one to a mutually respectful, successful one. Where do you see yourself on that continuum now? How about a few years from now?
Relinquish the Old Agendas and Patterns
Use your energy for healing as opposed to fighting.
Observe and notice where you might be stuck. Is your desire to hurt and teach the other a lesson? Punish and make life difficult?
“If you spend your time hoping someone will suffer the consequences for what they did to your heart, then you’re allowing them to hurt you a second time in your mind.”
― Shannon L. Alder
View this as a growing opportunity. Be the best co-parent you can be. You have that in you. In order to move on successfully you need to focus on your own healing, growth and taking responsibility for your own well being.