THERAPY FOR CO-PARENTING AND PARALLEL PARENTING
If parenting in an intact family is difficult (and it is!), how much harder it is across two households, involving two people who were once intimately involved, but who are now separate, with all kinds of residual feelings about the past and the present? There may be step-parents, half-siblings, step-siblings, extra grandparents, cousins, aunts and additional pets to contend with as well.
Do not despair! With a little humour and humility, it’s amazing what we humans can do. The principle of co-parenting states that except for in a few extreme circumstances, every child has the right to maintain a stable, positive relationship with both parents, even if they are separated or divorced. Being a parent is a commitment an adult makes with respect to a child, not to another adult, so it persists beyond marital separation. Co-parenting promotes shared parenting as a protection of the right of children to continue to receive care and love from both parents. Co-parenting requires that parents be able to communicate effectively, and work cooperatively to support their children’s relationships with each other.
Co-parenting counselling can be a highly effective way of working through the details of how, when, and what to communicate, to strike a balance between effective collaboration, while preserving appropriate boundaries between divorced parties whose lives have moved on. In the case of contentious divorces judges will at times order the couple to attend co-parenting counselling.
Sadly, co-parenting is not always possible. If parents’ views on child rearing are irreconcilably different, or remaining unresolved conflicts between them preclude positive cooperation, it can be a better choice to adopt a parallel-parenting model, where each household functions as an entirely discrete unit. In this model, it is still imperative to have an effective system for the exchange of information, and to protect the children from experiencing the conflict in the parental relationship as much as possible. It is parental conflict inside or outside a marriage that is most harmful to children, not divorce.