Post Separation Thoughts and Behaviours Really Matter

Let’s consider why we think we may have a difficult time co-parenting with our ex-partners:

  • She/he has an addiction and refuses to get help.
  • Who knows who she/he will have around my child?
  • She/he has repeatedly lied and betrayed our trust.
  • We keep arguing.
  • I feel completely disrespected by my ex-partner, so why should I cooperate?
  • She/he has shown no interest in the care of this child!
  • We didn’t get along before so …

And BREATHE! Now that we have let all that out (and I’m sure we can express quite an extensive list of additional thoughts and feelings associated with our broken relationships), let’s consider just a few of the benefits of effective co-parenting:

  1. Children will feel more secure, relaxed and confident growing up with two involved and cooperative parents;
  2. Enhancement of children’s social, physical, spiritual, intellectual and emotional development;
  3. Parents actually improve their health and development as well;
  4. Positive examples and role models for children by working together through difficulties;
  5. Both of us have the pleasure of being cooperative, compassionate and mutually involved parents;
  6. Extended family members are able to remain more involved;

In his extensive review of the literature on the impact of separation and divorce, conducted for the Department of Justice Canada 2001, Ron Steward highlights  “a study of 51 families with an arrangement for joint physical custody, Steinman et al. (1985) identified a list of factors that lead to successful joint physical custody. Families who successfully maintained joint custody had the following qualities:

  1. respect and appreciation for the bond between the children and former spouse;
  2. an ability to maintain objectivity about the children’s needs during difficult periods of the 
  3. ability to empathize with the point of view of the child and the other parent;
  4. ability to shift emotional expectations from the role of mate to that of co-parent;
  5. ability to establish new role boundaries; and
  6. show generally high self-esteem, flexibility and openness to help.” 

Separation or divorce can be an extremely difficult time for parents, and the children and extended family members involved. Feelings are hurt, people often choose sides (even though there are no sides in a family), distance is created (which is a normal part of any separation) and the emotional intensity and practical logistics of separating can inhibit parents’ attention to co-parenting for some time.

Co-parenting does work and is more likely when parents dig deep to develop the qualities listed above. With appropriate training, coaching, planning and practice, both parents will have the opportunity to create amazing lives for themselves, their children and extended family.

To improve your co-parenting by learning the how to strategies – book an appointment with us today!

The Family Social System

“A family is far more than a collection of individuals sharing a specific physical and physiological space. While families occur in a diversity of forms and complexities, each may be considered a natural sustained social system—one that has evolved a set of rules, is replete with assigned and ascribed roles for its members, has an organized power structure, has developed intricate overt and covert forms of communication, and has elaborated ways of negotiating and problem solving that permit various tasks to be performed effectively” (Goldenberg & Goldenberg, 2008).

Part of the process of living within our family social system, is to develop our own individual identities. To function successfully, members need to adapt to the changing needs and demands of one another, including changing and adjusting to expectations. What would a family be like with no structure, rules or expectations at all?. Sometimes, families become depleted as a result of resistance to change… implosion. Alternately, too many changes, both external and internal stressors, can lead to the family breaking apart… explosions.

Most, if not all, families cannot expect to avoid exposure to some stress, loss, or traumatic events at various points in their lives. Unfortunately, these challenges are not always handled the same way. Some families may have a difficult time managing. Nonetheless, managing and coping effectively as a family system is necessary and possible.

Family resilience, the ability to thrive and maintain stable psychological and physical functioning after aversive experiences, is essential for a family system to succeed in life. We should consider our level of family resilience in our homes. Consistent conflicts and energy depleting relationships will be an indication that the systems we have in place are no longer too effective and we require adjustments.

Some key family processes to attain family resilience are as follows:

  • Does your family have a consistent and positive belief system? Does your family view disruptions as milestones? Does your family resist assigning blame and focus on a crisis as a manageable resource?
  • Are you and your family members utilizing resources when confronted with stress? Are all members open to change and connecting with one another?
  • Are effective family communication and problem solving strategies set in place? Is mutual trust between all members secure? Are expressions from all members accepted and encouraged?

Some families can be (temporarily) shattered by crises. Feelings of hurt, hostility, and resentment may pile up and be unresolved. This makes it very difficult for a family to resort to their processes of family resilience. Family counselling is a good opportunity to address how a family is functioning. In a non-judgmental environment, all aspects of the family may be addressed and goals may be reestablished and achieved. Call us today to get your family through crisis.