5 Good Reasons to Try Co-Parenting Therapy

Couple arguing in front of childWhen parents divorce, they sometimes forget that their children didn’t also get a divorce. They still have their two-parent family, even if that family occupies two households instead of one.

Sometimes, though, it seems too hard to figure out how to communicate with someone you are no longer in a relationship with. But because you have children together, you can’t just go your separate ways, hoping you do not run into each other. Perhaps you or the other parent thought you’d no longer have to have the same, old arguments about parenting that you used to have, that it would all be behind you.

What you have perhaps learned by now is that you continue to have the same disagreements about the children, only from your separate homes. You still have to figure out your parenting timeshare as well as how the children will go back and forth between your houses, get to school and to their activities, get their homework done, make medical and educational decisions, and other considerations. And you still have to learn how to interact with the other parent to help make all these things happen, and to be civil and cordial with each other while in the children’s presence.

Perhaps instead of getting easier, it has not only gotten harder, it hasn’t changed the problems that weren’t addressed when you were together. What to do now?

Working on your co-parenting relationship may be more than you may have thought you were emotionally prepared to do. One of you may have moved out of the family home, emotions may be running high due to the pain and disappointment of the end of the relationship, and perhaps not knowing what’s next—or worse, continually anticipating that what’s next is something you won’t like—is wearing on you. You may find that every decision holds the possibility of anger and anxiety. It may be that all you want to do is stay as far away from the other parent as possible, if only to collect yourself and find a way to try again.

If this is your experience, it is often helpful to work with a co-parenting therapist to help turn down the heat.

In co-parenting therapy, with the help of a third, neutral party, you will have the opportunity to:

  1. Talk about the issues that you find most difficult to discuss with your ex.
  2. Make decisions regarding those things which cannot be different for a child living in two households (the school your child attends, medical decisions, team sports, etc.).
  3. Identify the decisions you can make separately for each of your households (bed times, food, houses of worship, etc.).
  4. Address your communication styles and the interactions you have with each other as a result of the different ways you have of expressing yourselves.
  5. Understand the reactions you each have to the other. The most effective tool you have to change the level of conflict in your relationship is to work on how you react to the other parent.

Co-parenting therapy can help you learn how to communicate more effectively, with the goal that you will not need the help of a third party to co-parent your children and you will be able to do so without conflict. Research has shown that when parents are able to put their differences aside and work to establish a post-divorce family that is not characterized by conflict, most children are able to adapt well to the changes in the family structure.

Co-parenting therapy is appropriate regardless of whether you still live in the same house and are preparing to live separately, have recently set up separate households, want to make adjustments to the parenting plan you’ve had in place for some time, or just need help communicating better about your child’s needs. Having a relationship with a co-parenting therapist can help you create an amicable relationship with your ex and protect your children from unnecessary conflict.

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Shendl Tuchman, PsyD, Divorce / Divorce Adjustment Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Liza Q

    September 17th, 2014 at 3:30 PM

    When nothing else seems to work the help and mediation of a well trained therapist can help you and your ex spouse navigate the tricky world of working together yet being divorced parents. There are too many children who feel that tug of war that goes on between the parents and this is only hurting the child. You are gaining nothing by acting this way and honestly, it is probably causing way more hurt on the inside of these children than you could probably understand or even imagine. They are kids, let them be the kids, and you remain the adult in the situation. Co parenting therapy can help you get there.

  • blake

    September 18th, 2014 at 3:54 AM

    I say what harm is there in trying this type of therapy? No one is goingt o hurt. For me it sounds like a win- win situation because not only are the parents learning to work together in a positive way, but look at what the children are going to gain from the fact that their parents may actually be able to stand one another again and be in the same room together!
    Children are the ones who inevitably suffer the most from almost any divorce scenario. It will be things like this which can help to ease some of this as parents try out new styles for working together, for the sake of their sanity and that if the kids.

  • Dayla

    September 18th, 2014 at 4:20 PM

    This to me shows that you are willing to put the well being of your child first and I think that this is how it ought to be.

    You will recover and make it through it because you are an adult and you understand what is happening. But your children? They might need a little more help with all of this and as a responsible parent who trues this you can give that to them.

  • Nicolette

    September 19th, 2014 at 4:30 AM

    I assume that part of the work will be done with just the parents and that there will then be other times that the entire family is included. I know that there are couples who can make this work without the intervention of a counselor but I think that there are many others who could actually use this kind of help yet fail to seek it out.

  • marcus

    September 19th, 2014 at 10:19 AM

    you may not want to have anything in tis world to do with this person anymore but for the sake of the children who are involved you have to give this a try

    i think that any really good therapist would recommend this for you. i think that while you are in the process of rebuilding yourself after a divorce happens you also need to be mindful of rebuilding what has likely been taken away from the children as well

    this will be things like thm feeling safe and secure and you might not think that this makes an impact on them assuredly they feel these losses just like you do and they need help working through it even though they may not have voiced this to you

  • Agens

    September 20th, 2014 at 12:08 PM

    I so wish that my son and ex daughter in law would consider doing something like this. I see how much their children and my grandchildren hurt because of the divorce, and they are both still so bitter with one another than I am surprised that they ever got any kind of divorce agreement worked out.

    There are times when I think that they need a mediator to even talk to each other and I just think about the kind of lesson that this is teaching or not teaching the kids I guess you would say and I feel like I could just strangle the both of them for not being able to see past their own pettiness and anger just how much harm this is doing in the lives of their children as well as their own.

    I want for both of them to somehow have some peace and happiness but I don’t see that happening without some sort of intervention.

  • fredd

    September 22nd, 2014 at 3:57 AM

    You have to understand that from the male perspective I think that there would be amny of us who would be afraid of doing this because we are tired of being beat up on so much and I guarantee you that there are men out there thinking that there is no way that they are going to go to more therapy and set themselves up for more of the same.

  • Gwynn

    September 23rd, 2014 at 3:48 AM

    Why try it? Because sometimes you have to understand that life is about so much more than you. There are other people in whose lives you have a heavy amount of sway and influence. You should want to do what you can to make this transitions easier for them and to feel a little safer for them and I think that co parenting therapy could be one of the keys to making that happen.
    I am not under any kind of disillusion that this will help repair the marriage or get the two of you back together and the children should know this upfront. But what it can do I think is to repair that which has beoken down and will allow the two of you to parent together again ormay be even for the first time in a way that is healthy for the children.

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