Making it Work: When to Tap into Co-Parenting and When to Tap Out
We all sometimes feel like we’re just making it work. Not every situation is ideal and not everything is going to be perfect and comfortable, and sometimes we just make life work. When you are trying to co-parent with someone you don’t like, can’t agree with, and don’t want to communicate with, it can be especially challenging to just make things work.
Working hard to co-parent, communicate and get along with your child’s other parent can be very difficult, but it can also be really, really worth the energy. In some rare situations, however, trying to co-parent is not actually what is best. So, let’s talk about why making it work is worth it and when other solutions may be necessary.
In so many situations, making a real effort to constructively co-parent is best for your child and will have a positive impact on their life. It can be emotionally draining and hard work, but making it work with your co-parent is often so worthwhile.
Why? For your kid’s sake. Seriously. That other person will forever be your child’s other parent. Whether they think about it now or not, your child is probably one day going to see themselves as a little bit of you and a little bit of their other parent. Making negative comments about your child’s other parent can have a heavy impact on your child’s own self esteem. Also, kids are smart and I’m often surprised with just how much kids pick up on. They’re more aware of the bickering than you would think, and this can really cause some stress in a child’s life. Kids shouldn’t have to deal with adult issues, make choices between parents, or think about how they should act towards their parents based on one’s feelings about the other.
Why? For the judge – because it’s for your child’s sake and in their best interest that you do your best to effectively co-parent. Judges are aware of the impacts negative communication between parents can have on kids and have seen the impacts firsthand many, many times. If you’re making an effort to communicate with the other parent about when and where the soccer game is, or how the school field trip went, or just generally being open and kind with the other parent, the judge will likely look at this very favorably.
Why? Because taking the higher road, especially when you’re doing what is best for your child, can be a really good feeling. Years later you can say that you did your part to try and co-parent to make your child’s life less stressful. You’re doing it for your child, but you can pat yourself on the back, too.
One big, big thing I’d like to be clear about – co-parenting is not always best for everyone. If your situation is one that involved abuse, addiction, a protective order, or a serious mental health problem, trying to co-parent may be unhealthy and not best for your child.
If you fall into one of these categories, there are options to help create a healthy environment for your children. Additionally, if your “co-parent” doesn’t fall into one of these categories, but you simply just cannot make it work, these approaches might be right for you as well. Here are some things to consider:
- Apps. If texting and emailing is not right for you, there are apps you can utilize to communicate through and ensure the focus stays solely on the child. These typically have a nominal monthly fee, but the positive impact can really be worth it. If the “co-parent” is not willing to agree to utilize the app, this is something a Court can enforce if necessary.
- Therapy. If you’ve gotten to this point, family or group therapy may not going to work. However, individual therapy can be extremely beneficial for anyone struggling with issues that can lead to a toxic co-parenting environment. This may need to be ordered by the Court if the co-parent is not voluntarily willing to engage with therapy or other mental health treatment.
- Parenting Coordinator. A neutral appointed by the Court (or by you and your co-parent’s consent) can be so incredibly beneficial. Think of this person as a referee who will help in many ways, by doing two big things: (1) work to improve communication between you and the co-parent, if possible, and (2) hold you both accountable and do their darndest to help you both make decisions that are best for your child (or even make that decision for you should it become necessary). While this approach is not a fit for everyone, a parenting coordinator can make a big impact in the right situations.
- Change in Custody. Maybe you and your co-parent can simply not agree on anything and you feel that their choices are not in the best interest of your child. A change in legal custody could give you more decision-making power to ensure that you can make those decisions that are best for your children. Maybe the other parent is consistently disparaging you to the child and sharing negative thoughts and opinions about you. A change in physical custody could give you more time and therefore less time for the other parent to minimize this impact. Additionally, adding a clause to your Custody Order that neither of you will disparage the other could be beneficial.
There are a lot of experts in the mental health world who will attest to the fact that toxic co-parenting can be damaging to your child and I urge everyone to research, read, and learn as much as you can about effective co-parenting strategies. If co-parenting is not right for your situation and you need to find an alternative solution, consider consulting with an experienced family law attorney.
To schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney at Tom Bush Law Group, please call us at 704-347-0110.