When you and your ex-spouse have a child together and the marriage doesn't work out, it's important to make sure your child's needs are still met. Shared custody and co-parenting are great ways to do this, but they can be extremely difficult shortly after a divorce. Depending on the circumstances of the divorce, the ex-partners may want little to do with one another.
The difficulty that partners have with communicating after a divorce is why co-parenting counseling is important. It provides you with a neutral space and a trained counselor who helps teach you how to best focus on the needs of your child rather than on your prior marriage. If you're raising a child with an ex-spouse, co-parenting counseling can help you both become more effective parents. To find out what skills you'll learn during co-parenting counseling that make sharing custody easier, read on.
One of the most important things you'll learn during co-parenting counseling is how to set communication boundaries with your ex-spouse. It's common for divorces to be messy, and you and your ex-spouse may harbor ill feelings towards one another. However, all of this needs to be pushed aside in order to best care for your child.
Setting proper boundaries whenever you and your ex-spouse communicate will prevent you both from dredging up your past marriage. Co-parenting counseling teaches you how to best focus all communication on your child rather than on your relationship with your ex-spouse, regardless of how you feel towards one another. Techniques you learn include how to keep messages informative and brief along with how to quickly set aside any emotions that arise regarding your divorce, allowing you to keep the focus on your child and how to best co-parent them together.
Arguments about parenting will arise in any marriage, so it's inevitable that they will arise in co-parenting relationships as well. You and your ex-spouse will most likely disagree about parenting choices at some point as your child ages. Co-parenting counseling teaches you how to mediate these disagreements so that you and your ex-spouse are on the same page regarding how you want to raise your child.
Agreement between co-parents will make your job much easier. If your ex-spouse offers your child a lot of freedom and you don't, for example, then your child may constantly complain that your ex-spouse allows them to do things that you don't allow them to, causing a tricky parenting situation. Talking through disagreements about parenting, finding a resolution, and sticking to it will make co-parenting much easier for both you and your ex-spouse.
Strategies for Introducing Stepparents
Eventually, either you or your ex-spouse may remarry, and you'll both need to find out an agreeable way to introduce stepparents into the co-parenting relationship. Stepparents will have their own ideas about how they want to be involved in raising your child, so this can be a complicated process.
Early on during co-parenting counseling, your counselor will help you and your ex-spouse discuss how stepparents should participate in the relationship. Setting hard boundaries such as custody sharing between families early on can prevent anyone from feeling that they're left out in raising your child. Remarriage is often difficult for ex-partners to talk about, so having a counselor mediate the discussion will help you and your ex-spouse come to an agreement about stepparents that you're both satisfied with.
Overall, the purpose of co-parenting counseling is to teach you strategies that allow you and your ex-spouse to put your child's needs first. If you have recently divorced and you're sharing custody with your ex-spouse, co-parenting counseling is always helpful. Even if you haven't encountered conflicts yet, learning how to best resolve them will help you avoid them in the future.
For more information, contact a counseling center like One Step Beyond Counseling and Wellness.