Kindergartners and Coparents should follow the same rules! (Part 2)
As a Co-parenting Counselor, in Birmingham, AL, I help coparents find better ways to communicate. I help them redesign their old marriage relationship into more of a business relationship helping them take the emotions out of their old relationship. As I do this work, I have come to realize something. Coparents seem to have a double standard in terms of how they expect their children to treat people and how coparents become OK with treating their coparent poorly. This is confusing to children. I love Robert Fulghum’s 1988 poem called “Everything I really need to know I learned in kindergarten”. I have applied these essential rules to a co-parenting relationship. (Part 2)
7) Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody
Many may be wondering, “how can I do that?” Are we telling our children to DO that? Then as the parent you need to do the harder stuff. And it is hard to apologize to your coparent when you were wrong. But I suggest you do it, because you are modeling for your children how to deal with difficult people. I cannot think of a more difficult person than your coparent (for most people). So model this well. When you are wrong, own it and apologize. That is what grown-ups do.
8) Wash your hands before you eat
Washing your hands before a meal is a matter of good preparation. So…be prepared as a coparent. That means when you meet with your coparent or have information to share be prepared before coming to the table. Check yourself and your motives before talking with your coparent. Are your motives good? Are you thinking about yourself or approaching your coparent in the best interest of your child? Often we can say it is in our child’s best interest, when it is really just in our interest.
Let go. Let. It. Go. If you are divorced, after the grief, there comes a time when you need to move on for yourself and your kids. Living in the past, not forgiving and holding onto bitterness does not help you and it does not help your kids. Model for your children how to grieve but then how to move on with your life and create something new for yourself.
10) Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you
Doesn’t warm cookies and cold milk sound good? When I think about kindergarten, I think about the sweet taste of chocolate milk in small cartons. So, coparents, learn how to model for your children how to take care of yourself while you are in a difficult place. Show them how to still enjoy things during grief, even if the moments are brief. Show them how to work out your anger through exercise or work through your bitterness with a therapist.
11) Live a balanced life- learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some
Why is it so easy to forget how to have fun as a parent? I am not sure if it is because we feel so responsible for little people and can’t fully let go or if we do not give ourselves permission to still have fun. But coparents find out what you enjoy and do it! Being creative and having fun uses different parts of our brain. It allows our brain a rest from the anger and the grief. Also, showing your kids that you are willing to take risks and learn something new (even if you won’t be good at it), I believe is a life skill we want to teach our kids. Playing it safe all the time isn’t fun.
12) Take a nap every afternoon
Rest. Rest. Rest. We know the importance of rest for our children, but for whatever reasons we excuse ourselves from rest because now we are parents. Teach your children the importance of rest by doing it yourself. Make sure you know what helps you feel restful. It may not be binging on Netflix for a day (because that is just an escape but not true rest) or it may mean that. It may mean going to your therapist and talking through difficult things. At the time, it doesn’t feel like rest but afterwards by voicing your pain and hurt, your brain can be allowed to rest.
13) When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together
Have a community. Show your kids that having people around you encouraging you, challenging you, inspiring you is a great way to live. Isolation does not always breed contentment. It can often breed comparison. Having a community that is authentic and vulnerable helps you feel not so alone. Show your kids how to do that by doing having community around you.
14) Be aware of wonder
Do you have a Higher Power? A faith that takes you out of your smaller picture into a larger vision for yourself, your children and your former family. My faith does that for me. As a Christian, my faith reminds me there is a bigger picture in life instead of the here and now circumstances. It takes me out of my small vision and casts a larger vision for myself and my family. One with intention and purpose.
If you need help learning how to better coparent, email Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation.
Sara Dungan, M.Ed, LMFT, ALC*, NCC, Certified Parenting Coordinator, Divorce and Family Mediator (Domestic Violence Trained) has her private practice called Sparrow Counseling in Birmingham, AL. She specializes in Parenting Coordination, Co-Parenting Counseling and Divorce and Family Mediation. Her passion is helping parents learn how to become successful coparents, so their children can thrive after their parent’s divorce. Contact Sara at email@example.com.
*Sara is an Associate Licensed Counselor (ALC) under the supervision of H. Hobart (Bart) Grooms, M. Div, M.Ed, LPC-S, LMFT-S, Supervising Counselor.