Children are resilient. They will thrive in a family with separated parents if the parents are committed to learning how to work together for their children’s best interests. Co-Parenting Coaching supports parents to build a strong foundation for their two-home family. With guidance, parents set intentions for their co-parenting relationship and develop strategies to reduce conflict. Parents can learn to support their children through divorce and separation even while their adult relationship is challenged and changing.
Although you will still hear the term, Washington moved away from the concept that a parent will have “custody” of a child. Washington lawmakers understood that children shouldn’t be treated like property. Instead, parents are asked to develop a plan for decision making and residential time. The plan is a legal document that establishes a predictable schedule for the two-home family, but it does not predict co-parenting skill.
The legal plan cannot anticipate or address every parenting challenge. When parents separate, they become co-parents. The rhythm of their parenting is different than it was when they worked together in one home. Both parents will need to learn new skills for their parenting partnership to work for the benefit of their children.
Coaching will help parents step through the decision making, daily schedule, holiday schedule and other provisions needed to develop a parenting plan. Parenting plans should consider the unique circumstances of each family. Thoughtful planning will allow children to feel secure and loved in both their homes.
Skill Building and Decision making
Beyond working with parents to craft a parenting plan, the co-parenting coach can support parents in skill building and decision making.
From planning how to tell children about a separation through future life decisions large and small, parents need to try to communicate and support each other as parents. It may take some work to build these skills. It may even seem impossible when conflict in the adult relationship is high. Co-parents do not need to be best friends, but they do need to learn how to manage grown-up issues without harming their children.
Children do not divorce their parents. They learn about communication and resolving conflicts by watching their parents. Navigating communication and decision making in a two-home family can be learned. Many decisions that cause conflict for parents after a divorce or separation are not legal issues, they are parenting issues. Parents who develop processes for communication and decision making can avoid relying on courts to make parenting decisions for them. Those who commit to developing these skills are freeing their children to grow to their full potential without taking on the adult responsibility of managing family conflict.