When you’re a parent going through a divorce, you don’t have the luxury of simply walking away from your ex and never talking to them again. At least until your youngest child turns 18 and leaves the house – and let’s be honest, probably longer than that – you will have to work together to effectively co-parent.
For high-conflict couples, this can pose a serious challenge – and that can have a negative impact on your child’s development – from anxiety and depression to delayed adjustment and substance abuse.
But if you can find a way to have a more collaborative relationship, you can avoid those negative outcomes. And one effective place to figure out how to collaborate is in couple’s therapy.
Bring the focus back to the kids.
For whatever reason, you didn’t have the marriage you wanted, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build the co-parenting relationship that your kids need.
The relationship you are working toward today doesn’t have to do with each other, but your children. You can work together to be the best you can for them.
Appreciate your ex’s positive qualities.
Boy, can that be difficult! After all, a divorce brings all the faults to the forefront.
Couples therapy can help you recognize and remember your partner’s parenting strengths. There are unique things that your ex brings to the table, and that’s a wonderful thing for your kids. Appreciating those qualities can help you be a more effective team.
Define your new relationship.
This isn’t just a major transition for your children; it’s huge for both of you as well. Navigating this change can be complicated.
In couples counseling, you can start to define the new relationship, setting boundaries and building bridges for this new stage.
Establish rules for communication.
Particularly if you are a high-conflict couple, communication between the two of you likely isn’t a strong suit. But it is key to effectively co-parenting.
In couples therapy, you can set rules and learn more effective strategies for communicating in ways that reduce conflict and support understanding.
One of the most important rules to set is that your communication should always be civil and respectful when the children are present. Save the heated debate and sensitive topics for time when you are alone – or for your next couples therapy session.
A Word about Finding a Therapist
When considering therapists, look for someone who has experience helping other divorced couples and their families. Avoid therapists who want to delve into past issues and hurts.
After all, your goal isn’t to dig up the past. It’s to move forward. You want someone who will keep you focused on the present and future, finding strategies and sharing communication tools that can help you build the relationship you need today.