One of the biggest challenges you likely face when working with parents is helping them to effectively co-parent and get along for the sake of their children. Whether dad and mom aren't together because of divorce, or were simply never married, it can be challenging for dads to navigate their ongoing relationship with mom.
In his recent article titled My Ex-Wife now Smiles When I say Hello, Dr. David Asbery shares his personal experience, and how he navigated divorce and co-parenting. His positive outcome is what we hope can be achieved by parents who are committed to working together to co-parent after a relationship or divorce.
Read his story and you'll no doubt gain some tips for the dads you serve along the way.
This article re-posted with permission from David Asbery and The Good Men Project.
When divorcing parents are at odds with each other, the hardest thing is getting them to listen to one another.
Having a child with a man that you are no longer with can be a lifelong struggle for some women. I know. After years of fighting with my ex-wife, I can honestly say that I am glad that we are finally in a space where we can smile and say hello to each other.
When I look back at the fighting and arguing that followed after our separation, I often wonder if it made a difference in where we are now, or if it made a difference in where my sons are at, now that they are grown.
One thing that I can attest to is that for years I put my ex-wife through hell, and during that time in my life, I believed that everything that I did to her was justified.
You see, I was on a mission to prove to anyone that would listen that I was right and she was wrong. I was hurt and embarrassed, and all that mattered was letting the world know that I wasn’t scared of the family court system and that in some shape or form, she was going to pay for introducing my kids and me to this system. So, considering her decision, I made some decisions.
If I had to pay in the form of humiliation, embarrassment, child support, and potential financial ruin, she was going to pay too, and it would be in the form of intense aggravation, frustration, annoyance, and irritation.
This is how we communicated for years. Our relationship had gone from one that was filled with the care and love of newlyweds to one where each action and event that occurred (during and after our separation) produced a multitude of retaliatory acts towards each other. We had a tit-for-tat relationship that I played extremely well.
Just to give you an idea as to how bad it got, I subpoenaed her grandmother. Oy Vey!
Now that I have the time to reflect on things, I now find myself looking for innovative ways in which I can help women to win, because helping a custodial mom win will contribute to increasing father involvement. This means that I will:
- Be in mom’s corner to help her navigate through the family court system, because it is not about mom against dad or dad against mom. It’s about what’s best for the children.
- Inspire her to return to school, because child support alone will not decrease her chances of living in poverty; education will.
- Help her to understand her husband’s point of view better.
- Provide her with some forward-thinking tools where we consider the repercussions (and there will be repercussions) of a future with or without her boyfriend/husband’s input.
It is my belief that if mom is happy, the kids will be happy and if the kids are happy, dad’s level of stress will decrease, thus increasing the chances of a positive working relationship with the mother.
Of course, this is not something that is easy to accomplish. When parents are at odds with each other, the hardest thing is getting them to take a step back and listen to one another. Therefore, I believe that one or two months after the separation is final, after custody is awarded, after visitation is established, and after the divorce papers have been signed, a court ordered family counseling plan should be initiated.
Payment for the counseling would come from whichever parent’s insurance is cheapest or the child support order. The purpose of the counseling sessions would be to help both parties get a better understanding on how to move forward and develop a working relationship, one where both parents are on good terms and are willing to work together effectively for the well-being of their children.
I believe that counseling will get separated parents to that space where they can smile and say hello; like where I’m at now, but much quicker.
Interested in training to help you work with mom and dad to co-parent? Check out our recent blog on free co-parenting after divorce training from Florida State University.
Also, check out our popular brochure How Dad can be a Great Co-Parent which contains a co-parenting plan for dad to fill out.