Co-parenting Equals Consistency

by Aug 24, 2020

Jessica was 8 when she noticed things starting to fall apart between her parents. Fights became more common and she and her brother were always caught in the middle. She and her brother, John whom I interviewed weeks before, were used to being asked to pass messages from one parent to the other. She describes one parent name calling the other to her and her brother.

Court Ordered Intervention

Toxicity continued to fester during a custody battle. The court mandated each of the kids to speak to counselors so they could get a better understanding of their experiences. The court ordered their parents to use an email system and while this decreased the children’s’ unwilling involvement, it did not stop all together.

Had it not been for the court, Jessica would not have had any say on custody arrangements and what was best for her mental health. Not only was transporting bags from one house to another draining and stressful to a middle schooler but arriving at a high conflict parent’s home came with all sorts of stressors.

Two Households, Two Sets Of Rules

There were many inconsistencies at both houses. One parent would discipline her for something the other parent did not mind. She would often get into trouble at one parent’s house, but it never was explained why she was in trouble to begin with. The lack of consistency was hard on her. Her relationship with the high conflict parent began to deteriorate quickly and she would just hide in her room when it came time for her to stay there.

Co-Parenting Priorities

Jessica, now grown and married herself, observes the difference between her parents’ divorce and her husband and his ex-wife, “working together and communicating in the interest of their son (my stepson) is like night and day from my parents’ divorce.” How they work together is not for their benefit as ex partners/co-parents but for the interest of their child, Jessica’s stepson. Occasionally one parent may bad mouth the other in front of her stepson. “I think this is one of the most difficult parts of a divorce. Each parent has to understand and actively choose not to do it in front of their kids.”

Agree On What Matters Most

Consistency is so important. Divorce is hard on parents and children, regardless of their age. When normalcy is challenged, and routines are changed, children experience anxieties just like adults. Often, they might not have the skills or language to talk about those anxieties. Co-parenting can be hard when you feel like you disagree with your ex on everything, but I know one thing you agree on is how much you love your kids. If you can keep your co-parenting relationship focused on that, the whole family can move forward into a much healthier future.  

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