When parents separate, the children often become the sacrificial lambs of their broken relationship. What started as something beautiful ends as a minefield of never-ending drama and anger.

Co-parenting means that two adults who want nothing to do with each other remain bound by their mutual interest: their offspring. Moving forward after a bad breakup is bad enough without having to stay in touch with your ex. However, this is precisely what co-parents must do. Here is how counselling can help:

Putting the children first

A co-parenting assistance program at Interactive Counselling’s Vernon Counselling offices can help parents find ways to put their differences aside in their children’s interests. Emotions run high between exes, and simple disagreements can devolve into fights and legal disputes. This happens because of past events and how children and their welfare are trigger points for parents.

A third party can help parents take their feelings out of the equation when communicating about their children. It makes everything more straightforward and, allowing for rational decision-making. By setting relationship boundaries that limit them to discussions about the children’s best interests, the co-parents can move forward with their chief objective: parenting their kids.

Healthy conflict resolution

Having strictly reduced their communications to issues related to their children, co-parents need to have conflict resolution strategies in place. 

There will be disagreements about how the children should be parented, where they should go to school, and what after-school or social activities they may participate in. Such disputes occur in any parental relationship. However, it is complicated when the parents’ relationship remains somewhat acrimonious.

Co-parents should have enough emotional intelligence to sit down and communicate their thoughts and feelings without becoming angry. There should be no need for shouting and fighting when all parties can find a way to solve a problem. A counsellor can teach co-parents how to settle disputes peacefully without resorting to nastiness.

Dealing with practicalities

Co-parenting requires both parties to work together on practical matters, such as exchanging custody, payment of maintenance, settling bills, and getting the kids to and from school. Sometimes, it is better to view these communications as a business relationship and not allow anything personal to enter the conversation.

This may be a challenge after the breakup when emotions are running high. During counselling, co-parents can learn how to communicate effectively about the day-to-day matters affecting their children.

Drafting a parenting plan

Co-parenting counselling sessions are valuable for parents who are drawing up a parenting plan. Several formats for such plans exist, and some states require one as part of a divorce agreement.

A parenting plan states any fundamental values and principles parents aim to instill in their children. It contains information about how the child will be educated, the inclusion of religion in their upbringing, and maintaining normal relations with extended family members. This plan builds on a custody agreement and ensures that co-parents are on the same page.

Nipping bad behaviour in the bud

The breakup of a parental relationship can be traumatic for a child. The world as they know it ends in a matter of seconds when they are told that things are going to change irrevocably. 

Some children blame themselves, feeling that they are somehow guilty of causing their parents’ split. Others think they need to take sides and wind up punishing one parent emotionally, especially when one parent has mistreated the other. 

Sometimes, children become manipulative, playing one parent off against the other to get something they want. This can cause potentially serious conflict between co-parents. These children rely on their parents not communicating about them. Co-parents on the same page do not experience such manipulative attempts.

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