Co-parenting counseling is an arrangement where both parents share responsibility for raising their child or children in a spirit that promotes cooperation, healing and growth.Co-parenting after a divorce can be difficult. While married, parents enjoy a personal relationship as marital partners and when a child enters the picture a personal relationship as parents is added to the equation. When parents decide to divorce, they end their personal relationship as partners, but continue their relationship as parents. For some couples, separating the personal relationship from the parenting relationship comes easy; custody is not contested, they amicably share time with their child(ren), conjointly attend school and extracurricular functions and remain equally involved in each child’s life. However, for many parents, this process may be quite difficult; they may not contest custody and may want to share time with their child(ren), but have difficulty separating and keeping separate personal issues from parenting issues. These are the parents for which co-parent counseling is intended.
Co-parent counseling allows parents an opportunity to talk about the best interests of their children in a neutral environment and, when appropriate, to get input and advice from a professional who is experienced in working with children and families of divorce. Issues ranging from custody schedules to day-to-day parenting can be discussed and parents can be kept ‘on track’ when their discussion begins to drift from parenting issues to personal/marital issues that are need to be kept distinct from the best needs of their child(ren).
Mr. Attryde’s approach to co-parent counseling is to regard the children and their best interests as the principal client. Accordingly, the focus in treatment is on the difficulties between the separated parents only as they relate to coparenting. The goals are to help parents unburden their children by learning to manage their own emotions and anxieties, and help parents strengthen their ability to function in ways that nurture their children’s well-being, regardless of the feelings their former partner triggers in themselves. Through co-parent counseling, parents can learn to free themselves from dysfunctional, emotionally-charged communication and behavior patterns by helping them adopt clearly-defined, respectful, and dispassionate approaches to problem-solving and decision-making.
Who can benefit from Co-Parenting Counseling?
Parents who are separated or divorced, or who are in the process of splitting up, may benefit from co-parent counseling. Specific treatment goals vary according to individual needs but generally it will assist in establishing agreements regarding a schedule for when children are to be with each parent, areas for joint decision-making, means and frequency of communication between parents, and any other issues that require attention. Co-parent counseling may help one or both parents resolve some of their anger or grief related to the ending of the relationship so that both can focus more fully on parenting issues without the intrusion of “unfinished business” from the past.
Co-parent counseling is not for every divorced parent who cannot resolve issues with their child’s other parent. Individuals who cannot tolerate sitting together in a room or who cannot constructively contribute to a dialogue in which issues are identified and resolved may find co-parent counseling frustrating and ineffective. For people in this sort of situation, direct court intervention, court based mediation, custody evaluation, special mastering, and other such arrangements may be more effective both personally and financially. However, years of clinical experience show that many people enter counseling reluctantly and skeptically, and a good number of such clients are surprised to find that they are able to resolve their troubling issues and work out parenting arrangements that support their children’s ability to flourish in the family after parental divorce.
When to seek Co-Parenting Counseling
When parents are able to create and maintain a strong parenting alliance after separation, children have a secure base to depend on while they grow. Some families are able to easily maintain a strong alliance after separation and others need support to create or regain a stable co-parenting relationship.
Parents seek co-parent consultation at all stages of post-separation parenting. Some parents come in before separation to explore how to separate in a way that best supports their children’s needs. Others have been co-parenting for a while and want to strengthen their co-parent alliance, improve communication and decision-making, or reduce children’s exposure to unresolved conflict.