It takes two to co-parent, no doubt about that. The family courts are filling a lot of people with false hope by making parents believe that watching a video, attending a parenting class, or having a parent coordinator or parenting consultant as the case manager of the parental relationship can force co-parenting to happen. There are cases where none of those things are going to work.
I know that this line of thinking does not endear me to the family court or put me top of the list when they appoint a parenting consultant, but I have to say it anyway. I am a realist and one who speaks the truth, whether or not that truth is popular. Does that mean that there is no hope for the high conflict divorce parents? No. That is not what I am saying. I am an eternal optimist and I believe that all things are possible. When two people want to have a relationship, those two people will have the relationship they want, but one person cannot have a relationship. That is what cannot be done. In the same way you cannot make someone love you if they don’t, you will not get a cooperative co-parent if they have no interest in co-parenting with you.
Some people can and do co-parent effectively. Those parents have had closure from the end of the relationship and have healed their hurts. They also see a way forward without the other parent sharing their life and can separate parenting together from having a life together.
Those who cannot co-parent effectively, those referred to as high conflict families, have never had a healthy relationship. They may not even understand what a healthy relationship is. They have probably never experienced one themselves and have never seen one in action in their extended family.
There are many factors that contribute to hostile co-parenting situations. Chemical dependency may have been a part of the relationship, for one or both of the parents. Abuse, which can take many forms, may have been part of that household in one way or another. There may have been a prolonged custody battle, in which the lies and mud slinging stung and deeply wounded one or both parties. As an aside, if you told horrific lies about your ex and now expect them to co-parent, SHAME ON YOU! As I wrote about before, co-parenting requires a level of trust. If the type of relationships I mentioned above exist for you, there is no trust, or at least not enough for someone to trust you with the children or take your word on anything.
Co-parenting means that you will be on time and return the children on time. If you are going to have parenting time on certain days, you will move heaven and earth to see the children those days. You will make the children a priority and you will treat the other parent with respect. The other parent has a life without you and their time, their interests and their home, including phone and email, must be respected. The phone and email are not to be used to insult and threaten them in their own home. You do not have to like what the other parent does and they don’t have to like what you do, but as co-parents, you must treat each other with respect.
If you have the misfortune of a hostile co-parenting relationship, nothing will make the other parent change their ways. There isn’t a court order or a parenting consultant or a law in the world that is going to make them change their ways. You already know this. The court already knows this. The only one who can change someone’s behavior is the person behaving that way. Court orders won’t work. You can tell the person until you are blue in the face that they need to change. It won’t make it so. The person who is behaving badly has to see their mistakes and want to change.
What can you do about it? The only effective way to shut down someone who is trying to upset you is to work on your reaction to them. The best revenge is to let them know that they are not going to get anything out of it and you are not going to waste time on what they do or say. So many people fear that their children will believe lies the other parent tells them, but if you do right by your kids, they will know truth. Kids will know who was there for them and who was standing strong for them.
You cannot force someone to co-parent with you. Pushing the issue in court will only further alienate the other party. If you are going to improve the relationship, give them some time and space and stop tattling on them. If they are ever going to warm up to the idea, they need to have time to heal first. Stop pushing them.
Focus on you and the way you parent. Do not make excuses for the other parent when you talk to the children and do not criticize the other parent. If the children ask why mommy or daddy won’t talk to you anymore, tell them that you hope, in time, things will get better, but you both need the space to adjust to single parenting. Also tell them that you are always there for them and they will always be taken care of.
When you prepare yourself to be a great parent, regardless of what someone else is doing, you gain confidence and independence. If you do not have to rely on that other parent, you will not be disappointed. The other parent may do their part and that is great, but your saving Grace is to be able to parent with or without them.
Image courtesy of Jeron van Oostrom / FreeDigitalPhotos.net