This is Part 2 of a two part article about co-parenting. Parents are the most important people in the lives of their children. The relationship the parents have with their children is the most influential relationship they have. From parents, children receive love, are nurtured and grow and learn about life. They learn to distinguish what they need from what they want. They hopefully learn what is healthy for them and what is best for them. Parents also teach their children what is right and what is wrong. They come to understand more about what they are uncomfortable with and also about their own dislikes. In situations where parents have divorced or are in the process of divorce or have separated, parents are still parents and must learn to co-parent their children. Often issues arise in the co-parenting of children because the parents have differing styles of parenting, schedules differ, and/or because there may a great deal of disdain toward the ex-spouse.
Co-parenting means putting aside anger and bad feelings a divorced couple may have for one another and being there for their children. It means taking the time to listen to their children and understand their feelings about various situations they encounter along the way being in a family that is no longer together. Co-parenting means being adults and keeping the negative thoughts and words about the ex-spouse out of the conversation with the children. Co-parenting means working together to parent the children even though the couple has chosen not to be together as a couple.
The anger, fear, anxiety, or even hurt one parent may feel towards his/her ex-spouse can be communicated to the children and will affect the relationship and interactions that parent has with them. When one parent views the ex-spouse as someone who has only negative intentions toward their children or as someone who is continually making bad choices regarding parenting their children and expresses this to their children directly or to others in the presence of the children, the children will pick up on that parent’s frustration or anger toward the ex-spouse. This will impact the children and their perception of the parent who is being negative toward the other. This will have a negative impact on the relationship with that parent. Even if the parent who is expressing negative feelings about the other one and is concerned about that parent’s parenting skills, the children will rise up and defend the parent they believe is being attacked. The children want to trust each parent that each of them has their best interests at heart but it becomes difficult for them to determine who to trust in these situations. It is vital that parents realize their children see the other parent as a loved one and family member. This realization can help parents to understand the impact of their words regarding the ex-spouse on their children.
Similarly, children are negatively affected when parents argue in front of them. The children feel torn about which parent to defend, trust, and believe. They believe they are being asked to decide which parent is speaking honestly when hear negativity unleashed by one parent about the other parent. Children are not equipped to make a choice between their parents, but need to be able to respond to the unconditional love, care, and relationship they have and desire with both parents. While co-parenting, it is in the best interest of the children to speak amicably with one’s ex-spouse and about one another to the children. This often requires parents to let go of anger, hurt, or bitterness they have towards their ex-spouse for the benefit of themselves and their children.
If you are struggling with a co-parenting situation that is particularly challenging or having problems while trying to do what is best for your children while co-parenting with a former spouse, please call us for help at Village Counseling Center. One of our caring and competent therapists would be glad to help you navigate the process of co-parenting.