Co-Parenting: Some Thoughts

There’s a letter that Judge Michael Haas wrote back in the 1990s to divorcing parents. In the letter, he reminds them that their children are “one-half of each of you.” That “every time you tell your child what an “idiot” his father is, or what a “fool” his mother is, or how bad the absent parent is, or what terrible things that person has done, you are telling the child half of him is bad.”

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com

I love this, and I reference it all the time at work. People who share a child but are not together separated for a reason. I say all the time, “If you got along great with each other, you probably would not be divorced.” It’s okay to not like each other. It is not a requirement, but it is understandable.

Believe it or not, I have met parents who are not together but are on good terms. In every case, it was not easy to get to that point, but they were able to get on the same page for the sake of their children. There are exceptions, of course (for example, in cases where a parent is a child’s abuser), but in the majority of cases, it is in a child’s best interest to have a relationship with both parents.

Kids pick up on stress and conflict even if they are not told directly about it. A child will be aware if exchanges are tense, or if the parents will not be in the same physical place for these exchanges.

You do not have to think the other parent is fantastic. You don’t even have to like them. The goal is to be on amicable, civil terms for the sake of your child. But how do you get there when you are hurt and angry?

Co-parenting classes exist for this reason. Crossroads of Parenting & Divorce is one program offered in the Sioux Falls area, and you can search for classes available in your area.

In instances of high conflict, you might need co-parenting counseling. This is similar to marriage counseling but focused on helping people who are no longer together co-parent in a healthy way. You can ask your therapist or attorney for a referral for co-parenting counseling, or you can search providers in your area.

Put simply, divorce sucks. Sometimes it is the best, healthiest option for all parties involved, but it is a stressful experience that no one wants. Co-parenting is a challenge that can be overcome with the right support.

Published by Dr Marschall

Dr. Amy Marschall received her Psy.D. from the University of Hartford in September 2015. Her clinical interests are varied and include child and adolescent therapy, TF-CBT, rural psychology, telemental health, sexual and domestic violence, psychological assessment, and mental illness prevention. Dr. Marschall presently works in the Child and Adolescent Therapy Clinic at Sioux Falls Psychological Services in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she provides individual and family therapy and psychological assessment to children, adolescents, and college students. She also facilitates an art therapy group for adolescents and college students with anxiety and depression. Dr. Amy Marschall is certified in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Telemental Health.

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