Coparenting in Divorce
Divorce is hard on everyone, kids and parents alike. The collateral damage can be devastating, but there are a few things that can help parents maintain or salvage the relationship with their kids. In a podcast by Tammy Daughtery, Co-founder of Coparenting International who holds a master's in marriage and family therapy, she recognized that there can be hope when parents make an effort to "show up" to take care of their kids but also "show up" to take care of themselves. Using the analogy of putting on an oxygen mask first in a crashing plane before putting it on their children, parents must be sure to first make sure they are seeking to heal their wounds through support groups and counseling so they are in a clear-headed place to be able to help their children.
Then there is the challenging relationship with the ex-spouse. Supporting your children through their own emotional pain may mean holding the tongue when you really want to bash the spouse. According to Tammy, children see themselves as an image of their parents and so if a parent is criticized, they take that criticism personally. I know it's hard, but if parents don't, the child will possibly grow to resent the bad-mouthing parent.
The truth is, that parent will be in the child's life forever. On amazing suggestion Tammy had for parents to "show up" for their kids was in the form of a parent meeting. How many times have you seen parents arguing in the parking lot of McDonald's, a soccer field, or the front door during a pick-up or drop-off? It stinks for the kids who witness this frequently. They feel alone, frightened, and burdensome. So, Tammy's suggestion is to arrange a meeting a few times a year in a public place away from the kids where parents take out their planners, their issues, and a "hammer" as they bang out holidays, schedules, and answers to bigger philosophical issues. What happens when a new spouse comes into play? Bring the person along! The best gift parents can give their children is the gift of a unified front, even if they don't appreciate it at the moment! Deep down, kids know they are cared about when they see this much time invested into their well-being, not to mention them seeing the willingness of parents to work together and be corgial.
In my experience with adolescents and children, they often carry the burden and responsibility of the divorce on themselves. They feel it's "their fault." This may manifest into eating disorders, substance abuse, obsessive-compulsivess, perfectionism in school, or promiscuity at a young age. They are looking for a way to control the life that suddenly seems so completely unpredictable and broken or they may be crying out for attention. The suggestions above can be a good start to coparenting civilly and salvaging the kids. Sometimes, however, you may need support and a neutral party to mediate. If so, I am here!