Co-Parenting Gone Haywire

by Aug 3, 2020

We can all agree healthy communication is an important skill to have. We can probably all agree that cooperative co-parenting is much easier on children of divorce than knock down drag outs or passive-aggressive behavior. I had the opportunity to chat with three 20-somethings about their parents’ not so cooperative co-parenting/divorce.
Over the coming weeks, we will explore each of their perspectives on their parents’ divorce. Each of these kids, now in their mid to late 20s, parents separated when they were in grade school. It is easy to assume that children do not remember or cannot understand things that go on in a divorce. However, children are so much more receptive than we realize. So, when breakdowns in communication start to happen, they are the first to bear witness to it.

John’s Story

John was 10 when his parents divorced. A time when kids crave consistency and are starting to explore their independence. He told me that communication between his parents was so unhealthy that court-mandated communication only be through email, which did not help much. (For one parent would have him read the emails and ask him to write things better or vent about the other parent).

Throughout his parent’s separation, talking to them was his biggest fear. After several situations where he felt pulled into an argument or asked to speak on behalf of another parent, that negative and stressful reinforcement led him to minimize the contact he had with his parents. He kept his grades up high so that his parents would not talk to him about his grades. When it came to disciplinary issues, John was a good kid and followed rules so there would be no reason to have a conversation with his parents.

The story he started to believe was that if he withdrew and kept to himself, then we would be as unaffected as possible. “Control meant responsibility with the disputes between my parents.” Going along for the ride is how he described his parent’s separation. John speaks that over time his sense of right and wrong became warped. While it became important to him to be a peacemaker and “understand the merits of each side” as he puts it. But right meant that everyone else is ok, does not matter if I am not. Wrong meant anyone getting hurt, so he defaulted to doing nothing. “Just because I understand each side doesn’t mean I chose one”.

Looking Back

I asked him if he could change anything, what would it be, “I never remember the specifics of the conflicts but conflict changed the way I was treated, I wish I had not been pulled into their conflict”. Now graduating from college this next year, with a bright future in Engineering ahead of him, John turned out to be a charming and well-adjusted human. Apologies have been made and time as passed for healing and growth.

What We Learn

The point of this blog is not to parent-shame anyone. Maybe you are the best parent ever and your ex or soon to be ex is the worst. Make lemons into lemonade, all you have control over is how you parent. I strongly believe that we all are doing our best with the resources we are given.

Being a parent is hard, co-parenting can be harder. Smarter Divorce Solutions is a resource that can help.

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