Why Aren’t We on the Same Page?
“The best security blanket a child can have is parents who respect each other.”- Jane Blaustone
As a therapist I have observed and worked with many families who have been through separations and divorce. This process is never easy for the adults or the children involved, and can disrupt what was once a “normal” family dynamic.
Some divorces end on a sour note, and some are resolved mutually without any bitterness. As we all know life has to move on, and we have to move forward. With this being said, adding a new significant other into the mix is oftentimes difficult for the children involved. Co-parenting is extremely important when there are two household and two families involved. Children can feel like they are torn between families when the biological parents are not on the same page regarding parenting.
Here are some situations that I have had experience with during my work with children and families dealing with divorce:
- Children often feel like they are stuck in the middle, and have to be the messengers for each parent. It is vital for both parents to make sure that they communicate directly between themselves and not use their child as an intermediary. Otherwise the child might get the message that he/she has to choose a side or pick one parent over the other.
- Having different sets of rules, boundaries, and schedules in each home becomes difficult for a child to adjust to, especially if they are switching back and forth on a weekly basis. This can become confusing for the child, and can cause anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed. Having the same set of rules makes it easier for parents to follow through with consequences and rewards. It shows stability.
- A parent talking about their child’s other parent in a negative manner in front of him/her can hurt that child’s self-esteem and teach the child a lack of respect for others. It’s important to always show respect for the other parent in front of the children. This helps them to understand the need for respect in any relationship.
There are many ways that parents who are no longer together can make things a bit easier for their children. Ideally, the kids should feel secure in knowing that even though their parents’ marriage did not work out, they will always be loved. The Co-Parents’ Handbook: Raising Well-Adjusted, Resilient and Resourceful Kids in a Two-Home Family from Little Ones to Young Adults by Karen Bonnell and Kristin Little is an excellent resource for those who find themselves on this journey of redefining family.
Ultimately, successful co-parents set a good example of what communication should look like, and demonstrate that even if two people do not get along with one another their interactions need not be negative. In this kind of collaborative environment, children learn what it’s like to work as a team. Co-parents who are willing to work together can often solve problems that arise much more easily than trying to solve them on their own.
If you find yourself struggling with co-parenting issues and feel that you need the help of a trained family counselor, please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services in Orlando today at 407-443-8862 to make an appointment.