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There’s not just one way to co-parent: co-parenting therapy helps parents articulate shared values
When families with children decide to live separately, this can raise so many questions around what co-parenting will look like. As co-parenting therapists in our Lower Manhattan and Park Slope, Brooklyn therapy offices, we don’t assert one way to co-parent. There are many ways to co-parent depending on the family, parents, and the kid or kids. Our job isn’t to impose our ideas of what co-parenting looks like (though we aren’t shy about sharing them), but rather to help each parent express his or her own values, which are at the core of parenting decisions.
Co-parenting therapists are a mix of parenting coach, mediator, and couples therapist. We provide a structured environment and guidance to work through setting up a co-parenting situation that works for a particular family. Creating parameters for how to co-parent in the beginning sets the stage for success immediately.
All of our therapists in our Tribeca and Park Slope offices have extensive experience working with children and families. Our role is to offer expertise around what kids often need, and assist couples who may have had trouble parenting when they lived together in order to work on behalf of their family. We help families focus on the shared goal of what is best for the kid(s), and help parents not lose sight of this.
co-parenting isn’t just for couples that live apart
It should be noted that co-parenting isn’t just for couples that live apart. There are intentional co-parenting situations like, for example, friends who choose to have a baby together outside of a romantic relationship, couples co-parenting, and open adoption. While conflicts and challenges can still arise, as with any relationship, intentionally co-parenting couples have a number of advantages baked in. In addition to an absence of historical enmity, couples in these instances often have the opportunity to plan for challenges even before a child arrives. Employing a family therapist or co-parenting counselor can, therefore, be a part of this planning and problem prevention.
Conflicts about parenting can also exist even when couples live together. Families bring all sorts of different ideas, experiences, and assumptions to parenting. Therapy can help sort out how to create a specific way of parenting that suits a family’s needs, backgrounds, and beliefs. Our work here is to help create a common language and understanding of what kids need, and get parents working together. This can include using our knowledge about kids to create behavioral plans that parents can implement and get our feedback on.
co-parenting for parents who are divorced, separated, or in the process of uncoupling
Couples can have difficulty imagining how they will lead their children through the divorce or separation process. Kids need lots of reassurance and holding, which makes this task particularly demanding. Parents are put in the position of having to lead their families at a time when they too are stretched emotionally.
Especially when there is a history of pain and conflict in a relationship, this can easily spill into parenting, whether through talking badly about a co-parent, litigating past grief, asking children about a co-parent’s personal life, or rude behavior. Many well-intentioned parents sincerely struggle with managing frustrations. While relationships nearly always end in conflict, ending them is a decision (mutual or not) to stop airing those frustrations and part ways. However, a partner may continue to exhibit hurtful or even harmful behavior, leaving one parent with a complex challenge: advocating for their child’s needs and standing up for their own self-protection, while also continuing to support the best possible success in the relationship between their child and the other parent. This can feel like gymnastics. When couples invite a co-parenting counselor to influence how they operate, these issues can be negotiated with help.
It’s important for co-parents to share love without diminishing love. Kids are sponges. Developmentally, they tend to blame themselves. Therapy helps get co-parents on the same page around staying connected to the big picture: the health of the family, best practices for nurturing kids through this, and letting old hurts go.