Deciding to participate in Co-parenting Counseling can empower you and your co-parent to help your kids stay connected and not rejected as your family transitions to a new normal. As a Co-parenting Counselor in Birmingham, Alabama my overall goal is to get parents sharing stories about their children again with each other. For many coparents, this is difficult because so much bitterness has built up because of the divorce process, and they have stopped talking. I often tell my coparents that my clients are their children. I am working FOR their children, and what their kids need are two parents that are talking and engaged in their life.
What is my process for Co-parenting Counseling?
Step 1 - Meet Separately
My process for Co-parenting Counseling is that I meet with each parent separately first to hear each of the parent's stories and concerns. We will then start meeting in joint sessions.
Step 2- Meet with your child
I also like to meet with the child once or twice to get a sense from them about how they are feeling about the divorce. It is powerful to watch their eyes when they find out that their mom and dad have been meeting and talk about them. Kids love it! Once your child realizes BOTH of you are talking and are on the same page, they will begin to have a harder time using your divorce as a way to manipulate both of you. All children of divorce manipulate whether they do it intentionally or unintentionally. Often they are also in a lot of pain and feel caught in the middle. My office becomes a safe place where they can share their pain, anger, and confusion about the divorce.
Step 3- Joint Sessions
The first joint session is very structured going over a Co-parent Contract (see below) as well as working through several educational tools together. These tools can help coparents learn how to communicate more effectively and disengage from their marital relationship. We then begin working on parenting issues. Both parents bring 1-2 parenting issue to the session. These parenting issues can be anything from scheduling, educational, health, discipline, and communication issues. These conversations are powerful because so many times divorced couples have made incorrect stories up in their heads about the other person. When divorced couples sit down and talk with each other and a third-part who helps them navigate what the other person is saying, this can be a profound moment in both of them moving forward instead of living in the past.
This is an example of a Co-parenting Contract that you and your coparent agree to sign before even coming into my office for the first session. We will then go over this contract in the first joint session.
As of today, ___/___/___ I agree to the following guidelines:
1. I recognize that I am expected to work towards the future rather than stay focused on the past or on blaming the other parent.
2. I will make child-focused decisions and sacrifices as needed. I will stay solution focused rather than fight to "win."
3. I understand that I am expected to demonstrate respectful interactions in spite of how I may be feeling towards the other parent.
4. I will take responsibility for planning two parenting issues for each session regarding matters that need to be resolved or discussed.
5. I will not call Sara, our Co-Parenting Counselor unless I am having an emergency that is "child-focused".
6. I will acknowledge my co-parent, no matter how I feel about them every time I see them. This includes even when my child is not present like the waiting room.
7. I will not block my child's contact with the other parent either by phone or visitation. My child will return calls to their other parent the same day whenever message has been left for them. Child calls and parent calls will be separate.
8. I will post and honor the "Divorce Rules" given to me in the first session.
9. I will minimize and eliminate my child/ren's sense of loyalty binds.
10. I will "consult" with my co-parent rather than simply "inform" them regarding parenting decisions.
11. I will not schedule activities or appointments on the other parent's time without prior agreement. Exceptions to this are regular therapy appointments or extra-curricular activities.
12. I will honor all new agreements made in our joint sessions with Sara Dungan.
13. I have reviewed and agree to the fee breakdown attached to the back of this contract.
14. Above all, I will use impulse control and shield our child/ren from parental conflict and all negative comments.
Blogs I have written regarding co-parenting: