Do you co-parent with your ex or do you counter-parent?
Divorcing as a parent may not result in the outcome many would hope for. If you’re divorcing, most likely you would rather not be around your ex any more than necessary; yet, because children are shared with an ex, the door must remain open for communication and interaction to meet the children’s needs. As much as we might wish to completely close the door on the past, we simply can’t in these circumstances.
So, the difficult task lies ahead to maintain a relationship, hopefully, a civil one, with a person we would most likely prefer never to speak to again. Co-parenting expects divorced parents to somehow overcome the ugliness of their failed marriage and divorce to still function as the two parents each child deserves. The reality of this task can be even more difficult than it sounds and, sadly, many parents fail at it!
The question to always bear in mind: are you co-parenting or counter-parenting?
Co-parents love their children more than they hate their ex. They may not be friends with their ex, agree with their ex, or even like their ex; but, they push negative feelings to the side to make decisions, be present, and parent their kids.
Counter-parents maintain their hate and anger for their ex always at the forefront of their mind. They can’t forgive, let alone forget, and every encounter is an opportunity to remind their ex of how much they dislike them and to possibly enact some revenge for the past.
Co-parents know that co-parenting isn’t easy, but they understand that their children need functional adults to make wise decisions on their behalf and to shield them from unnecessary conflict so that they can experience as normal of a childhood as possible without developing issues as a result of their parent’s problems.
Counter-parents live up to their name by working continually against the other parent, often when it’s not even logical to do so because they want to win, be right, or cause hardship for their ex. The result is usually that it’s not just the other parent being fought against, but also the process of parenting and the best interest of the children.
Co-parents keep emotion out of the equation as much as possible so that they can stay focused on the facts of what their children need. Co-parents won’t always agree, but they can usually discuss things in a calm and logical manner and are willing to communicate, compromise, and develop creative solutions.
Counter-parents aren’t opposed to using sneaky or under-handed methods to get their way or to try to make their ex suffer or look bad. They don’t care about what’s fair, what’s ordered by the court, or the rights of everyone involved. They just want to have things their way at any cost. These parents may wage war through social media, talk to teachers behind their ex’s back, and otherwise do whatever they want with no regard to the other parent (or child’s) stake in the situation.
Co-parents go out of their way to make sure everyone is informed, part of decisions, and to promote transparency. They understand that children need and benefit from the involvement of both parents, and appreciate the contributions of each parent.
Counter-parents engage in alienating behaviors such as blocking communication between their children and the other parent, talking badly about the other parent, attempting to block contact, discouraging affection, interest, and a healthy relationship with both sides of the family, and rewarding kids for rejecting the other parent. They don’t care that this can be psychologically damaging to the child as long as the child appears to like them better and they can punish their ex.
Co-parents encourage a loving relationship and strong bond with their other parent. They are happy for their child when they have positive experiences to share, allow the freedom to communicate with the other parent during time apart (without monitoring calls), and refrain from making negative remarks about the other parent around the child.
Counter-parents are all about drama! They regularly start arguments, criticize, insert themselves into their ex’s business, and prevent life from being calm or harmonious. They take no note of how the chaos effects the children or how their actions interfere with the act of parenting.
Co-parents are willing to be flexible, especially to allow for the interests and opportunities of their children. They will agree to trades, problem solve as a team, and function like co-workers with their ex rather than mortal enemies.
Co-parenting is one of the most difficult things any of us will ever do! It requires a thick skin, infinite patience, and the vision to see that even though the marriage didn’t survive, the commitment to parent is eternal.
Of course, as with anything in divorce, the process is easier when both parties are willing to invest in the process instead of shirking their responsibilities or seeking conflict.
Even if our ex engages in counter-parenting, our kids deserve our best efforts to co-parent. If nothing else, they should see one parent keep their word, act in their best interest, and set an example of integrity.
The next time your blood boils during a parenting-related matter with your ex, carefully consider your next move and any part you may have had in the difficulty of the situation. Be careful to avoid tactics that may make your ex miserable, but punish your children at the same time!
Children have parents because they need mature adults who have a full understanding of life and the world to coach, nurture, and guide them. Counter-parenting fails this mission by putting those who can’t control their emotions or behavior behind the steering wheel, teaching kids to become just as dysfunctional!
So, what’ll it be? Can you suck it up and try to work with your ex- even when they are infuriating- because your kids need you to, or will you take the road of always needing to be right and putting your ex in their place? Co-parent or counter-parent: the choice is yours, but the kids are counting on you!