What is Co-parent Counseling?
Co-parent counseling was developed in an effort to help divorcing parents learn how to "do divorce better" and "effectively parent." If most parents knew some simple principles and truths about how to make their children's lives better, they would, in most cases, respect the value of learning to cooperate with each other. Co-parent counseling helps parents learn to communicate effectively in a business-like fashion, leave out the emotions involved, and solely focus on the child(ren). Unfortunately, parents "lose site" what is important...their child(ren) and get "caught up" in what the other parent is saying or doing that may seem unfair (emotions).
Co-parent counseling can be conceptually divided into two parts. The first part is to help restructure the parents' communication so they can learn to more effectively and safely approach each other, and the second part is to address outstanding issues involving their children that can range from behavioral problems to scheduling difficulties, etc. It is imperative that parents relearn communication patterns since it has been consistently shown that if the communication between parents isn't improved right away, co-parent counseling will fail.
When co-parent counseling works, it seems as if many of the children's problems magically "disappear," indicating that many of the problems that children experience through the process of divorce are either caused or exacerbated by parents who can't or won't cooperate with each other for the sake of their children. Parents that work together for their child)ren) will be amazed at how well their child(ren) will postively respond.
Working with clients who are often hostile and resentful requires that a therapist possess the ability to be both directive and strategic in his or her approach. It is also essential to be familiar with the developmental stages of children, the dynamics, dilemmas and problems of divorce (both for parents and for children) and to have a dynamic approach to working with couples. Below is a handout entitled" A Guide for Divorced or Separated Parents" which outlines what parents can accomplish in co-parent counseling.
A Guide for Divorced or Separated Parents
For most children, divorce or separation is a traumatic event that requires time, effort and support from both parents in order to heal. The single best thing that parents can do to help their children through this process is to learn to cooperate for the sake of the children by reaffirming and maintaining a commitment to their parental obligations and responsibilities.
Divorce or separation is perhaps hardest on children as they are usually forced to transition between two different households. It is also useful to keep in mind that while each parent is missing the children some percentage of time, the children are missing one parent 100% of the time.
Guidelines for parents
1) Frequently remind your children that the divorce was not their fault in any way and that you will always love them and remain a part of their lives (unless, of course, this is not true).
2) Learn to view your current relationship with your ex-partner as a business-like, co-parent relationship that focuses only on matters directly involved with the ongoing rearing of the children. Refrain from speaking about any other personal matters.
3) Always communicate about matters involving the children directly with the other parent and never use any child as a "go-between." Asking children to deliver messages to the other parent, however tedious these messages might appear, can generate tremendous anxiety for children, especially if conflict already exists.
4) Never speak disparagingly about the other parent to the children as this causes a loyalty conflict within a child. Your child(ren) love BOTH of you equally.
5) Learn to convert your complaints of the other parent into requests for behavioral change from that parent. Beginning requests by using phrases such as, "Would you be willing to:' "I'm wondering if it is possible for you to:' etc., demonstrates both respect and politeness to the other parent, which will go a long way toward establishing cooperation and softening anticipated resistance.
6) Never engage in conflict with the other parent in front of the children. Keep all communication with the other parent business-like and positive or, at the very least, neutrally-toned.
7) When conflicts occur between parents that involve the children, learn to focus on the facts surrounding the actual problems as reported by the children (using their exact words as much as possible), rather than editorializing or exaggerating the events for dramatic effect.
8) Don't involve your children in your new personal, intimate relationships unless you are certain that the relationship is a committed one that will become an important and integral part of the children's lives.
BILL OF RIGHTS FOR CHILDREN IN DIVORCE AND DISSOLUTION ACTIONS
by The New Jersey Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts
1 . The right to be treated as important and separate human beings with unique feelings, needs, ideas, and desires, not existing solely to gratify the needs of their parents.
2. The right to not participate in the painful games parents play to hurt each other, or be put in the middle of their battles.
3. The right not to be a go-between or a message courier for their parents.
4. The right to a continuing, relaxed, and secure relationship with both parents.
5. The right to express love and affection for, and receive love and affection from both parents.
6. The right to know that expressions of love between children and parents will not cause fear, disapproval, or other negative consequences.
7. The right to know that their parents decision to divorce is not their fault.
8. The right to know that it is not their responsibility to keep their parents together.
9. The right to continuing care and guidance from both parents.
10. The right to age appropriate answers to questions about the changing family relationships, without placing blame on either parent.
11. The right to know and appreciate what is good in each parent.
12. The right to be protected from hearing degrading or bad comments about either parent.
13. The right to be able to experience regular, consistent, and flexible shared parenting time with both parents, and the right to know the reason for changes in the parenting schedule.
14. The right to have neither parent interfere with, or undermine, parenting time with the other parent.
15. The right to not be forced to choose one parent over the other.
16. The right to express their feelings, concerns, and ideas about the divorce.
17. The right to remain a child without being asked to take on parental responsibilities or to be an adult friend or companion to either parent.
18. The right to the most adequate level of economic support that can be provided from the best efforts of both parents.
19. The right to continue ongoing positive relationships with the people (friends, neighbors, grandparents and extended family) who were an important part of their lives before parental divorce.
This Bill of Rights was adopted from “The Children’s Bill of Rights” developed by the American Bar Association, Section of Family Law, and was modified and expanded by the NJ-AFCC Special Projects Committee (Jeannette DeVaris, Sam Forlenza, Donald Franklin, Sandra Saul, Phil Sobel, Frank Weiss.)
**Casual dating and/ or temporary, non-committed relationships should be kept separate from the children and enjoyed during the parent's own time.
CALL or EMAIL today for your initial FREE 20 minute consultation about Co-Parent Counseling and if you are a candidate for this. Remember some courts/judges/commissioners may court-order that you be in Co-Parent Counseling. Find the right one for you and your family.