Winning at Co-parenting

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Last week, The Oak Inside was asked to provide input to DFW Child magazine writer Ashley Hays for an article she was doing on co-parenting. The article will be published in the May edition, along with other great information, so pick up your free copy from neighborhood stores, and check it out in May.

Talking to Ashley got me thinking about the complexities of co-parenting. We may have the lofty goal to protect our children from unhappiness and conflict, but may unknowingly let our own feelings keep us from reaching that goal. This is true especially when our co—parent seems to be on a different side at times.

When we think of co-parenting, we generally focus on the moms and dads who are divorced and negotiating support and visitation, health and education, schedules and boundaries. But make no mistake, even when we are “married with children”, we are most definitely co-parenting as well. There is a good chance we will have some differences of opinion on how best to grow our children. Not only do each of us come with our own history and experience to influence us, but the majority of parents have the Mars versus Venus issues that may come into play. Kids can sense (or hear) our dissension and may become anxious or use it to their advantage as in playing one parent off another.

Even when we work really hard to shelter our children from conflicts and worries, co-parenting is not always easy. Most states now mandate parenting courses for divorcing parents who have minor children, because there is always potential for conflict. There is not room in this space to list all the wonderful ideas and great resources available. I am looking forward to the May issue of DFW Child for new ideas, and there are many wonderful articles to be found on electronic media.

There is one guiding principle I learned a number of years ago, from a divorce recovery group leader, that applies to the realization of any goal, particularly this most important task of growing a productive, caring person from scratch. If you can imagine…

When your child(ren) is(are) ready to leave the nest and become adults, what do you want them to believe about themselves and the world in which they live?

Are they lovable – do the two people who should love and cherish them above all others at this point, in fact, love them unconditionally or do they hear that the other parent is late because they don’t care or that the child’s remarried parent has chosen the new family over them?

Are they grounded in good character – do they come from a line of good people, people who have struggled but have been strong and honorable, or do they hear that half of their gene pool is housing leeches and piranhas?

Can they trust themselves? Have their thoughts and feelings been heard and not doubted or been silenced? Can we comfort them when they are sad without feeling guilt or blaming the other parent for making them so?

Can they trust the world? Have they been told that the motivations of others, including their own parent, are to be questioned and feared or do they expect good and learn from others’ mistakes as well as from their own?

This is an exercise not to find fault or be berate ourselves over it, but to redirect our focus back to the goal – raising well-adjusted, confident, caring, curious humans who will make a difference in the world. Once you commit to this, every decision can be measured against it: Will this behavior – words, actions, thoughts – contribute to the realization of the goal or be destructive to the child’s positive growth? Simple. But not easy. We’re here to help if you need some support from the coaching staff!

What do you think? We’d love to hear your comments and suggestions about this and other subjects of interest to you. Just email me at

Have a great week!