6 Common Co-Parenting Myths Debunked
Setting the record straight in order to raise emotionally healthy kids
Posted Jun 30, 2019
Just like giving birth, child-rearing is not for the faint-hearted. It’s a grind physically, emotionally and financially. But venturing into solo-parenting takes even more courage, guts and unhealthy doses of “fly by the seat of your pants.”
Alas, there is no shortage of information regarding co-parenting post-divorce. While no one-size-fits-all plan exists and everyone’s story is unique and special, common beliefs contribute to increased contention, chaos, and calamity. My goal is to guide weary parents toward more calm, composure, and feelings of in control. Now it’s time to set the record straight and debunk six common co-parenting myths.
1. You need more information to equip you with the right co-parenting tools. You don’t need more information, you need the right information, from the right source. The internet is alive and unwell with co-parenting forums, alienation groups, and Instagram stories. Problem is the content is often unmonitored and unattributed. Alienated parents already know the heartbreak of, “You left the family and now we don’t have any money,” so scrolling through more stories of emotional vomiting only leads to increased anger and hopelessness. As someone once said, "be careful when following the masses, sometimes the 'm' is silent."
The co-parenting truth: Go with psychotherapy from a qualified professional. In conjunction, the books “Divorce Poison” and “Growing Up With Divorce” or this online co-parenting course can help keep you focused on those areas within your control.
2. You’re not trying hard enough at compromise. Ever try to move a mountain with your fingertip? Exactly. Sadly, this one prevails in family court. Co-parents often contact me because the judge ordered therapy as a strategy to reduce conflict. Co-parenting counseling can work, but it’s highly unlikely if one party meets the clinical diagnosis of narcissism, borderline or sociopathy. Sadly, the employee in charge of psychological assessments called in sick the day you appeared in court. The fact remains, one party can unilaterally drive the conflict.
The co-parenting truth: Reframe your definition of compromise. Fifty-fifty can be a misnomer when it comes to sharing your kids. I prefer, meeting in the middle-ish for conflict resolution. You’re not always going to be heard so let go and ask if what you're fighting for is justified. “I’m so tired of giving in on everything!” is a common sentiment. I get it. You’ve already been through the wringer, but is choosing your child’s orthodontist going to matter when they’re twenty-five?
How about adults who don’t need government intervention to decide the holiday schedule, the communication platform and what size to cut the toddler’s grapes for breakfast, get this quote.
The co-parenting truth: Choose your inspiration wisely. For example, this gem by Maya Angelou: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Not only can this principle guide you in choosing a different partner going forward, but it also serves as a wonderful way to teach your kids critical thinking skills.
4. You need to be nicer, or firmer, or more loud, or more quiet for things to fall in place.
The co-parenting truth: Life with a toxic ex never falls into place. You can, however, stop it from falling into more disarray. Detach yourself from the drama and focus on problem-solving, instead. Having boundaries around when your kids can bring up how wonderful things are at dad’s, or the day of the week you and your spouse discuss your co-parenting conundrum can go a long way toward getting your life back.
5. Everything will be resolved when there’s a court order. If only this were fact.
The co-parenting truth: A judge and a courtroom do not necessarily equate to justice. Before filing a motion, research the court culture in your area. What many parents don’t realize is how long, contentious and prohibitively expensive the process is. Some people choose to have attorneys hash out the divorce details in order to avoid the stress of family court. Ironically, that can be even more time consuming and expensive. If your story excludes involvement with children’s protective services (CPS) and law enforcement, it may be wise to go with a 50-50 custody schedule. Many parents believe the kids are better off spending more time with them, and while this may be true, asking the court to prohibit a parent from an equal timeshare, may be inviting more trouble and possibly sanctions.
6. A child should have the right to choose which parent to live with.
The co-parenting truth: Too many levels to this one, but if you’re struggling with this topic, please refer to #1 within this article.
Lastly, always come back to the kids. I know everyone says that, but toxic parents will never learn to love their child more than they despise you because they’re characterologically unwilling to do so. But you can make it about the kids.
The family court system often perpetuates the very hostility, contention, and conflict it is designed to ameliorate. Believing you won in court doesn’t change the fact that kids lose 100% of the time. Adopt firm boundaries around exposure to co-parenting materials and get informed on the impacts of high-conflict divorce on kids. Short of that, focus on moving on and moving through the conflict. Because you don’t need more information, but rather the right amount of facts coupled with solid problem-solving techniques. Your ex wants you scrolling the internet at 3:00 a.m. for “How to convince the court my co-parent is a narcissist?” Don’t make it about them.
To join Co-Parenting Without Chaos: Lose the Drama, Drop Your Toxic Ex, Keep Your Kids Safe, click here.
Copyright 2019 Linda Esposito, LCSW. All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the author.