From Issue #9 Of the Unapologetic Truth Newsletter
In an ideal world, divorced parties would always fully co-parent, which is an agreement in where both parents continue to jointly participate in their children’s upbringing and activities. This involves a substantial amount of interaction between the parents (both in public and in private). However, in a world where divorce is as common as a seasonal cold, you can imagine the amount of people who do not subscribe to working with one another in the rearing of their children. After all, if getting along for the sake of their kids was that easy, perhaps divorce wouldn’t have been necessary.
Being able to put aside your differences and grievances, can be a feat for many, but it’s worth trying, for the sake of your child(ren). There are successful divorced couples that have done just that; released their anger, distaste, and opinions about their ex, moved on with their lives and had a “surface” relationship with them so that they could be there for the children, their activities, and mental health. The ability to see what the child needs—whether it be to pick up a forgotten item at the other parent’s home or one parent buying something for the child(ren) but allowing use of it at the other parent’s home without hairsplitting pennies to make expenses even—makes a world of difference in the day-to-day life of kids in divorced families. The need to just be a kid and worry about things like crushes, term papers, and sporting events are what should be at the forefront of their mind each day; not whether Mom and Dad are arguing over who’s turn it is to buy sneakers. All of the arguments, big or small, add up in the fragile mind of a child or adolescent and the breaking point is that of the child(ren) feeling as if they do not matter, and in essence, material items and egos triumph over feelings and unconditional love. Are these the kind of people we want to raise and send out into the world?
People who think that their worth is less than it is because it wasn’t ever put first? If co-parenting works for you, I am sending you a virtual high-five. Kudos to you and your ex for doing what’s right and just. You may still wince at times over your exe’s decision-making skills but have the mind strength to look past it and do what’s healthy for your kid’s sake.
For the parents out there who have tried countless times to co-parent but find themselves on an island surrounded by arrows of conflict, accusations, false narratives etc., you may find Parallel Parenting a more effective concept to try and live and raise your child(ren) despite having two households. Parallel parenting is the parenting style that allows each parent to have a meaningful relationship with their child(ren), while completely disengaging with each other. By focusing on parallel parenting instead of the more rigid co-parenting concept, you are minimizing your interactions with your ex and have a better chance at avoiding unnecessary and unhealthy conflict.
This is essentially raising your child(ren) your way in your household and allowing your ex to do the same in their household. Now, I know that thought may bring a cringe worthy face and shiver up your spine, but believe me, it takes away their control of you and how you raise your kids in your home, because when it comes to co-parenting, there are those who will not only parent them in their house, but they will also try to parent them in your house as well. Essentially, parenting you! This will happen with the micromanaging of you, your kids and all the minute things you may do “wrong” in the rearing of your child(ren). Not a healthy family system to be a part of for any child. Yes, parallel parenting means that the kids will have a different set of rules, ideologies to follow, and energy levels to contend with, however, living in two different homes is their reality, but seeing their parents argue over every childrearing issue, does not have to be their reality. Living in two homes with different parenting styles could give them the best of both worlds, a strength that comes from the ability to transition and adapt, a strength that is quickly being eroded in today’s youth with our overcoddling society.
The number one rule of family court should be looking out for what’s genuinely best for the children. This often does not seem at the forefront of our court system. In fact, it often feels as if nobody involved with the court system—whether it be the judges, lawyers, GALs, etc. has any kids of their own or is actually living in the real world. Family court is a world driven by minute technicalities, with increasingly contradictory rules and regulations, where common sense is the last thing on anyone’s mind. Many times, there appears to be no understanding of degree in the sense that the most minor “supposed” infraction that one can possibly imagine is treated by the system with the same amount of time and attention as the most horrific types of child abuse imaginable. A non-stop game of semantics and minutia often takes center stage.
With the amount of money that can be involved for courtiers of this system, it is not a surprise that the actual welfare of children often gets lost in the shuffle. It goes without saying that the side in the divorce proceedings with more money can simply play a game of bleeding the other side dry to get their way. It is amazing how many people have accepted that this is the way to try and promote justice in society and for children. The system lives in a bubble and is constantly trying to apply what the people involved learned in theory at law school or what the political class wants to see implemented to try and score points. In this theoretical bubble world, there is little to no understanding of real-world mental abuse and personality disorders such as narcissism, psychopathy, or sociopathy that may be present in a particular adult, which destroys any attempt at the push by the court to get the often bitter and angry divorced couple to lovingly “co-parent” on every aspect of their children’s lives.
Rigid interpretations of concepts such as co-parenting sound great in the classroom, but often have no bearing to reality for many divorced couples. The divorced side that actually tries to co-parent and follow the rules will be the one to be punished. That’s because the difficult parent in the divorce who is not thinking about the child first and foremost but is more interested in “winning” and punishing the ex, quickly learns that the system often rewards the side that will be as difficult as possible and proceeds to throw up as many roadblocks as possible. This difficult side of the equation will be coddled by the system, while the sucker who thinks the system is ruling with a set of common-sense rules will be throttled. Eventually, a naïve good person will figure out how the game is played to try and make things as positive as possible for the children involved, but often it is too late. Bad decisions that have been made will take years and endless amounts of time and resources to try and rectify. It need not be this way.
This is not to say everyone working in the court system operates in a cold and close-minded way. There are certainly excellent judges, lawyers, and support specialists, but they are caught up and overwhelmed in a decayed system with everyone else. Much needs to be done to lower the temperature and promote a more healthy and just system. One idea would be to turn initial decision-making on its head. Instead of having often times vengeful and freshly hurt separated ex’s and sometimes opportunistic attorneys go to battle with one another to try to hammer out detailed divorce and parenting plans, the court should immediately put forth to divorcing parents a small handful of fully, ready to go simple and straightforward agreements to choose from. Then, the parties should work off these well-known to all involved, guidelines to address any unique needs to the particular divorcing situation. This is seemingly a minor change in thinking but it could save an enormous amount of time, energy, resources, and bad feelings.
The mental state of our children is now in emergency mode and good people need to be brave, speak out, and push for new ways of thinking, not just in the court system, but everywhere. The amount of mental suffering of our youth right now is beyond acceptable. Often times, huge breakthroughs can come from the slightest tweaks in thought and action. The concept of parallel parenting is not that far removed from co-parenting; nevertheless, there are crucial differences that can make all the difference in the world. If co-parenting has turned into court battles, frequently distraught kids, and basic unhealthy mental states for all involved, you are encouraged to try and push parallel parenting. When a family and probate judge, Guardian ad litem, parenting coordinator, friend or family member cannot understand why you are unable to co-parent with your ex, tell them you are Parallel Parenting instead and find it to be a much more balanced way to raise your child(ren). You may be the one to enlighten them on the parenting style; the style that just may be what fills your child(ren) with the self-love every individual will need on their life’s journey.