I work with divorced couples and other former couples with children to help them deal with the stresses of their situations and learn co-parenting approaches that will be in the best interests of their children. I help divorced and separated high conflict couples through family therapy, family mediation, and co-parenting education to separate their former marital hostilities from their ongoing parental responsibilities, and to achieve amicable co-parenting arrangements.
Post-divorce family therapy is used to help parents adjust to their new situations in life and shift to a new type of relationship with each other. When what had been a loving, intimate relationship turns into a combative contentious antagonism there needs to be a way to move on and establish a cooperative co-parenting relationship that will be in the best interests of the children.
I understand that children’s adjustment after divorce is best achieved through a long-term co-parenting arrangement. Implementation of a co-parenting plan is critical, particularly for high-conflict cases where children may be caught in the middle of disputes between parents. Effective co-parenting is facilitated by the children having a meaningful routine relationship with each parent; an absence of hostile comments about the other parent; consistent, safe, structured, and predictable caregiving environments without parenting disruptions; healthy, caring, low-conflict relationships with each parent; and maintenance of parents’ emotional health and well being.
In many cases, divorce does not end marital conflict, but exacerbates it and this hostility can be very damaging to children. It is extremely important that such hostility not continue on an ongoing basis and that parents find a way to work together for the sake of their children. When there is ongoing litigation between parents, children are at greater risk of emotional damage than in less contentious circumstances. It is important that parents help their children see the good qualities in each of their parents, and that parents work toward the development of positive relationships with each other. In my work with parents I help them to develop the necessary skills to deal with co-parenting challenges. Family disputes need to be resolved sufficiently for the parents to take the focus off of the conflict and put their focus on the welfare of the children. Often parents fool themselves into thinking that they are doing something for the sake of the children when in actuality what they are doing creates more problems for them. I help parents to sort out their motivations and achieve clarity about their intentions.
I provide education to parents on the impact that divorce has on children both in the short and long term and assist in the development of co-parenting plans. In addition to negotiating a workable parenting plan that meets the needs of children and delineates the responsibilities of parents, I help them to arrange a way to monitor the consistency of the caregiving environments. Intervention to mend the relationship between parents can result in the long-term success of a co-parenting arrangement. This intervention may focus on the development of positive interactions between family members, enhancing communication skills, developing a range of problem-solving skills, and enhancing non-aggressive negotiation skills.
Sometimes direct contact between highly conflicted parents may not be strictly necessary and in fact may not even be desirable for successful co-parenting. In these cases there still needs to be a way for parents to share parenting responsibilities and this can be done through a parallel parenting arrangement. With parallel parenting, parents remain disengaged from each other, and may assume decision-making responsibility in different domains (such as one parent being responsible for medical decisions and the other for education). Parallel parenting protects children from parental conflict and protects their relationships with both parents. Such arrangements require a high degree of specificity in the initial parenting plan, so that the parents will not need to communicate directly once the plan is in place.
Counseling for children and each parent after separation and divorce helps them achieve the emotional healing that increases the chance for success of co-parenting. My approach allows each member of the family to gain an increased understanding and acceptance of the divorce as time goes by. Regular reviews of the co-parenting plan take into consideration developmental changes in the children and their changing developmental needs as well as structural changes in the family such as the introduction of a new partner or step-parent, and relocation of one or both parents. I can facilitate this type of review and assist with revision or modification of the parenting plan as needed.