Are You Struggling To Co-Parent And Mutually Support Your Children?

Have you recently divorced or separated from your partner and feel concerned about how the separation is affecting your children? Or, have you been separated from your ex for some time, but feel your co-parenting relationship is still contentious, touchy or strained? Are you, your ex or both of you still angry, resentful or wounded? Are you worried that conflicts are hurting your children and setting a bad example? Are transitions, joint decisions and communications a constant challenge? Have your children been acting out or, alternatively, withdrawing? Do you wish you could figure out how to manage your relationship with your ex in a way that best supports your children?

It can be frustrating, painful and stressful to co-parent – especially immediately following a separation or during a contentious divorce. Conflict can cause immense stress – not only for you, but also for your children. It’s not uncommon for children whose parents are in conflict to develop behavioral problems or withdraw emotionally or physically. Although you may feel powerless, hopeless or overwhelmed now, a BPS therapist can help you navigate this stressful relationship and develop tools and strategies to move forward – for you and for your children.

Co-Parenting Issues Are Very Common

Statistics say that roughly 50 percent of children will live in a single parent situation at some point in their lives. Parenting alone or co-parenting with someone that you’re in constant conflict with can make you feel anxious, frustrated and highly stressed. But, people do it everyday. While some couples are able to part ways and co-parent with relative ease, others – especially those who experienced contentious separations – can greatly benefit from expert help.

Therapy Can Help Improve Your Co-Parenting Relationship

Whether you’re seeking help on your own or jointly with your ex, therapy can be an extremely effective way to improve the dynamic of your co-parenting relationship. Therapy can help you refocus, communicate better and learn how to separate your feelings from your behaviors. It’s an opportunity to learn new skills and strategies to create positive change.

Your BPS therapist is highly experienced and trained in counseling for co-parenting issues, and can help you dissect your relationship. You can identify what’s not working, where the breakdowns occur and what can be done differently. While you cannot change your ex, you can change your own behaviors. Sometimes, even minor shifts – such as asking the other’s opinion, apologizing for small mistakes or being more flexible – can transition you out of negative cycles. With help, you can make these shifts, communicate more productively, and develop more effective problem solving skills.

If you and your ex are able to meet together, therapy can help you create and maintain agreements. You can learn how to better handle interactions, develop a communication strategy, and set up structures that work for your particular family and situation. Your BPS therapist can not only offer you concrete and usable strategies, but also serve as a third party witness, which can help keep you both accountable, respectful and focused on your children.

Staying focused on your children is the key issue here – although sometimes in the heat, pain and upset of breaking up, even the most loving and attentive parents can get a little lost and self-involved. But, focusing on your children can make all the relationships within your family better – including the one with your ex. Children-focused co-parenting relationships tend to be more decent, which can help children relax and do better in life. Your children can feel safer, have more consistency and learn that even though their parents cannot live together, they can still make decisions, communicate and work well together.

With help and in time, it is very possible to develop a co-parenting relationship that is workable, manageable, and even cordial. You can resolve high conflict issues and learn to live with your new situation in a way that feels good and focuses on your children. Even if your ex isn’t interested in therapy, there is a lot that you can personally do to change your co-parenting dynamic. If you’re truly open to change and can stayed focused on your children and the future, you can move forward.

But, you still may have questions or concerns…

The situation with my ex is still highly volatile and contentious. I just cannot see how therapy could work.

Many relationships end under bad circumstances, and contentious separations or divorces can heighten discord with your ex and within your family. But, you have children together and, for better or worse, a life-long relationship. Everyone will feel and function better if you can find a way to improve your co-parenting relationship.

And, your ex does not have to join you for therapy. There are many strategies, skills, and behavioral changes you can employ that can make a significant difference in your relationship.

My ex refuses to try any kind of therapy. Why is the burden of fixing this relationship solely on my shoulders?

This is not about your ex – it’s about you and your children. Therapy can help you better navigate your co-parenting relationship, as well as help you with other relationships now and in the future. Therapy can help you handle difficult situations in healthier ways and move forward. You can learn practical, useful skills that can be used in all aspects of your life. You can learn how to separate you feelings from your behaviors. And, therapy can give you a supportive outlet to express the negative feelings you may still be carrying. With help, you can feel better sooner and learn how to make changes to your co-parenting relationship that can benefit you and you children now and in the long-term.

I think therapy could be helpful, but I’ve already spent so much on the divorce. I’m not sure I can afford it right now.

This is your family’s lives and wellbeing. Addressing co-parenting issues now can lead to both immediate and long-term results. It can also prevent difficulties within your co-parenting from getting worse. Therapy is investment in your sanity and peace of mind. It can help you create a co-parenting relationship and family life that feels and functions well. And, mainly, therapy is an investment that can lead to more security, consistency and wellbeing for your children.

Many people come to BPS having worked with other therapists who were not trained to work specifically with co-parenting issues or who they or their ex couldn’t relate with – which is a waste of time and money. At BPS, we’ll conduct a increase the likelihood of a good fit, BPS offers an online therapist directory and match your family with a therapist who is trained and experienced to treat co-parenting issues and whose personality is a good match for you. Once you find that good match, making a commitment to your children and yourself may be one of the most valuable investments there is. Imagine everyone in your family system feeling and functioning better now and in the long-term on a regular basis and ask yourself what that’s worth.

If money still is an issue, you can talk with your BPS therapist to see if they work on a sliding scale. They may also be able to help you find other lower cost resources in the community.

To increase the likelihood of a good fit, BPS offers an online therapist directory which will help you to determine what your specific issues are and ensure a good match between you, your ex and a BPS therapist in terms of personality, style and expertise.

Check out our free, online therapist directory, which will match you with a therapist who has expertise working with co-parenting issues.

karen-wildingBPS therapist Karen Wilding, LCSW helped create the content for this page. Karen has been helping families resolve co-parenting issues since 1987.