If you are tired of trying to work cooperatively with your child's mother or father to make decisions, then co-parenting counseling and a parenting plan may be what you need.
When you make the difficult and painful decision to separate and/or divorce, there are often issues to be addressed as well as decisions to be made at a time that can be emotionally overwhelming for all concerned.
Major issues around parenting separately include:
- the logistics of setting up new living arrangements
- decisions about separating money and finances
- creating schedules for your children
- learning to re-negotiate the actual day-to-day parenting decisions while apart
Most adults go into long-term relationships or marriage with hopes and dreams of parenting together within the same household. But there are many reasons why relationships don’t sustain themselves - and the need to end them prevails. There are many kinds of endings, some which are amicable and, unfortunately, others that are contentious.
The way things end has a great impact on everyone involved. In many cases, communication and expectations were not clearly expressed and enacted. Conflicts were not resolved in constructive ways.
The need for you to address things carefully is tantamount. Your children will benefit in the long term, and you will help them adapt and adjust to your new family configurations.
A strong co-parenting plan, as well as a co-parenting process, based upon good communication and conflict resolution, is a predicting factor for children remaining resilient and well-adjusted through a separation or divorce.
What is co-parenting?
“Co-parenting” or “shared parenting” is when both parents work together as a team to raise children even if a marriage or romantic relationship is over. It entails working together to create a plan and process, without bad-mouthing or exposing the children to hostility and anger. It demonstrates to the children that their own needs are the most important thing to their parents.
A co-parenting plan and/or process can be created by attending classes, through co-parenting counseling, or mediation.
I have been working as a co-parent counselor over the last eight years with a model that I have found to be very successful. This model was developed by Elizabeth Thayer, Ph.D. and Jeffrey Zimmerman, Ph.D. and is discussed in their book, “The Co-Parenting Survival Guide”.
This co-parenting model provides you, the parents, with a way to create a parenting plan that is child-focused. It also gives you both the chance to rebuild trust and good will, by sitting together while feeling heard and validated, This way, you both know that you are creating something for your children that is coming from a place of love and care.
The more the negotiations begin to work, the better you begin to feel and soon realize that you both have the same goals in mind.
How Co-Parenting Counseling Works
The couple meets with me several times a month to review a parenting agenda. I begin by making sure that the children are the focus and that we stay present-focused, rather than rehashing the past by revisiting unresolved issues. I emphasize that we are not reviewing the reasons why the relationship did not work out, nor what the other person’s flaws or limitations are.
1) We begin by discussing what good co-parenting is:
- staying focused on the long term welfare and wellness of the children
- having cordiality and civility in all interactions
- having an ability to attend children’s events together without overt hostility
- being able to have cooperative decision- making on essential and routine issues
2) The next step of the co-parenting counseling process is to review an agenda that targets the topics that most parents have to address together. Some examples are medical appointments and medical concerns, school- related issues, behavioral and discipline concerns, and scheduling changes.
Tips for Creating a Healthy Parenting Plan
The parenting plan that you agree to should be clear and simple. It should exclude issues that are not able to be worked out feasibly.It should also take into account the concept of the “right of first refusal” (one parent gives the other parent the first opportunity to take custody during their absence), and eliminate unnecessary transitions for your children.
The meeting should be business-like. You should have the chance to also talk about the good stuff that is happening with your children. Some time to laugh and enjoy the process of watching your children grow as they deal with trials and tribulations should also be encouraged. The parenting plan emphasizes the idea of working as a team and modeling, giving the message that their children deserve to be loved and taken care of by both parents.
Co-parenting counseling helps parents ultimately create a plan and process to help children adjust, grow, and thrive - even if parents are no longer married and/or living together.
Have questions about co-parenting counseling?
Contact Stephanie at StephanieNewberg.com or call 610-883-0127.
Stephanie Newberg is a licensed psychotherapist and works with individuals, couples and families. She has been in practice for 15 years specializing in family and couples counseling, co-parenting counseling, implications of divorce on families, and grief and loss issues. Stephanie has led numerous workshops and presentations and has published articles on relationship and communication skills, co-parenting counseling, coping with family stressors and children’s mental health issues. She lives and practices in Bryn Mawr, PA. To request an appointment, contact Stephanie at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her at StephanieNewberg.com