“Co-parenting Skills” refer to the effective communication and collaboration skills required of separated, divorcing and divorced parents, if they are to place their children’s healthy development above their own immediate needs. Parents who continue to have difficulties co-parenting effectively during or after a divorce are often referred by the court or voluntarily come to a Co-Parenting Specialist. A Co-Parenting Specialist helps develop the communication and collaboration skills needed to get children out of the middle of their parents’ ongoing adult disputes, and to align parents’ co-parenting behaviors with their higher values, for the kids’ sakes.
Ethical litigating attorneys often refer their clients to Co-Parenting Specialists for help, especially when it’s clear that children (young or adult children) are being pulled into the middle of their parents’ adult concerns, or into alliances with one parent against another. At times, co-parenting training and communication can be so effective that divorcing couples are able to go back to their respective litigating attorneys ready to negotiate a settlement without going to court.
Depending on the degree of conflict and emotional reactivity, I may require each parent to have their own co-parenting coach to facilitate communication and skills building between the two. When co-parents are carrying resentment, hurt and fear, they may need to feel they have their own support person in their corner. When conflict and miscommunication run high, a single therapist, no matter how genuinely neutral and nonjudgmental, may be bogged down by each parent’s fear that the therapist is on the other’s “side.” Miracles can and do happen with skilled Co-Parenting Coaches and when both parents are able to make their kids the priority.
Most parents would like their children to be free to experience joy and to celebrate their developmental milestones, unencumbered by their parents’ negative drama. Nevertheless, too often, even adult children of divorce find themselves fretting over which parent’s house will host the graduation party, who will be seated where at the wedding, and who will have the baby shower for the first grandchild.
The ideal is for divorced parents to be able to dance at their kids’ weddings, and to celebrate their accomplishments, free to focus on their kids’ needs and to celebrate their developmental milestones – even when the “kids” are adults, rather than requiring the kids to mature, burdened by having to juggle and tip-toe around their parents old hurts and resentments.
Children suffer negative effects of divorce in direct proportion to their exposure to the conflict and tension between their parents. Given that 93% of our communication is nonverbal, children feel, experience and intuit the degree of tension between parents, whether they are directly exposed to overt conflict or not. Overt conflict increases kids’ suffering as well.
In collaborative divorce and mediation, Divorce Coaches and Child Specialists are generally experienced at increasing parent’s co-parenting effectiveness. Ria Severance, LMFT is trained as both a Collaborative Divorce Coach and Child Specialist, as well as a Co-Parenting Specialist.