The parenting plan that you and your spouse worked out during your divorce looks good on paper. However, the residual animosity from your marriage and divorce is making it difficult to manage. Even worse, that negativity that you harbor for your ex is affecting your child.
Many co-parents have this problem – particularly in the early months and even longer after their break-up. They don’t want to resort to “parallel parenting,” where exes basically parent their child separately, so they go to counseling.
Counseling for divorced parents isn’t about rehashing old disputes or fighting over who’s the better parent. It’s intended to help co-parents learn how to work together healthily and productively as they co-parent across two households.
Co-parenting therapy is different for everyone
Some parents may begin counseling as they’re still working out their parenting plan if they have serious disagreements, but they don’t want to turn it over to a judge. Others begin therapy after they realize that co-parenting isn’t as black and white as the clauses in their plan.
Many marriage and family therapists and other mental health professionals will ask a couple to focus on the positive first – perhaps by having them list the things that make the other one a good parent. If you’ve agreed to share custody, you likely recognize (even begrudgingly) that your ex isn’t a bad parent – even if they became a terrible spouse.
Often, just discussing your differences in front of an objective third party who’s there to help both of you can leave you with a different perspective that’s different from what supportive family members and friends have been giving you.
Building healthy communications practices
By learning to communicate better with one another, you can minimize the amount of conflict your kids witness or at least sense. A therapist can help you develop ground rules around what you discuss in front of the kids – even if it means saying nothing more than a few pleasantries during exchanges.
If you and your ex have been sharing parenting responsibilities during your separation, then going to co-parenting therapy can help you as you work out a parenting plan that puts the needs of your child first. If you already have a parenting plan, then co-parenting therapy can help you learn how to manage it or where you might need to make some modifications.