by Jess Hatton, MA, LPC
I started out as what you would describe a “reluctant” teen counselor. I had never had experience as an adult being around teens until my husband, Adam and I were married. To be completely honest, they intimidated me. I was fearful of working with someone who was forced to come to counseling against their will and also feared that they would somehow judge me. My husband, however, was in student ministry and so I jumped into serving alongside him.
Then it wasn’t long into my counseling career that a supervisor at that time told me she saw potential in me working with teens and my schedule started overflowing with teens. Over time teenage clients have been one of my favorite populations to work with. Their honesty and eagerness to have someone invest in them is refreshing and it most definitely keeps me on my toes.
Now, before we go forward let me say I do not specialize in custody conflicts, in fact if I know that it will be coming up I will attempt to refer to someone who does specialize in custody for the betterment of the client. However, it is not uncommon for me to have a client whose parents have shared custody and continue to have high-conflict co-parenting. One of the most heartbreaking and biggest struggles for me as a counselor is seeing teens who are caught in the middle of their high-conflict divorced parents. Co-parenting is key, but what does that actually look like?
Then the king said, “The one says ‘This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead’; and the other says, ‘No; but your son is dead, and my son is the living one,’ And the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought before the king. And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.” Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, “Oh. my lord, give her the child, and by no means put him to death.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.” Then the king answered and said, “Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; She is his mother.” 1 Kings 3:23-27
In the passage of scripture above we see Solomon having to impart wisdom when two women approach him both claiming to be the mother of an infant. In the previous verses we read that both women had birthed male children within 3 days of each other, while one died, the other survived. Both women were claiming that the surviving child was theirs. Solomon makes his decision by instructing that the child be divided in two. The true mother of the child sacrifices her claim on motherhood in order that the child’s life be spared while the mother with the false claim reveals her jealousy and bitterness. Solomon then gives the infant back to the true mother.
So what can we learn about parenting from this passage?
Sometimes you have to put yourself and or your feelings about your Ex aside for the betterment of your child. This can be difficult for parents when there was so much history and sometimes hurt associated with your Ex. But try and keep in mind that your Ex is also the parent that your child needs. Trying to work together helps your child have a more stable and loving relationship with both parents involved.
For very tangible information I’ve included a resource I often use that has rules for co-parenting from the Cooperative Parenting Institute in Georgia. You can find this information as well as Divorce Rules and other helpful resources at their website Cooperativeparenting.com
The decision to divorce or separate was a grown-up decision. Let’s do everything in our power to minimize stress for our children by honoring these coparenting rules.
- Let’s keep our children out of the details of our relationship and divorce.
- Let’s separate how we view each other as parents from how we feel about each other as partners.
- When we are in the presence of our child, let’s treat each other with respect by saying hello and good-bye.
- Let’s remember our children benefit from a relationship with both of us.
- Let’s include each other in all important parenting decisions. We should each be the first person we contact to discuss our children.
- Likewise, if something is important to you then assume it would also be important to me. Pass along any information about our children.
- Let’s be flexible when important opportunities or special occasions arise for our children.
- Let’s not make plans with the children over the other parent’s time. We need to work these details out between us before we involve our children.
- Remember we don’t have to do everything the same to be valuable to our children.
- Let’s support each other’s discipline and consequences.
- Let’s always give each other the benefit of the doubt when our children tell us things that may or may not have happened. Let’s check with each other before reacting or making assumptions.
- Let’s share our household expectations and rules with each other so we can attempt to match each other’s whenever possible.
- Let’s inform each other when we are ready to introduce someone special to our children so we can be positive and encouraging.
- Let’s respect each other even when we have a difference of opinion.
- Let’s remember that our children have two homes, not just one.
- If we bring a stepparent into our children’s lives, let’s make sure they are respectful of the two biological parents as the primary parents.
- No matter how complicated things may get between us, let’s always seek to resolve conflict between us or with a mediator and do all we can to avoid litigation or other adversarial actions.
- When either of us registers our children for school or an activity, let’s make sure to enter both parents’ name on the registration card.
- Let’s avoid referring to the children as mine and remember to say our children no matter how much time they live in each home.
- Let’s give our children the best chance at success by putting our hurt to the side and focusing on developing the best coparenting relationship we can. Our children deserve this!
Copyright 1997: Boyan and Termini, cooperativeparenting.com
Co-parenting can be very difficult and often much of a sacrifice. But when collaborative parenting is done well I’ve seen children and teens have great relationships with both their parents and appreciate the role that both have in their life.
Jess Hatton, MA, LPC