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The primary answer to the question of why parents should consider taking an online co-parenting class is this: some dynamics in co-parenting are simply too complex to handle without help. In respect to the word help, I mean help on all levels. This includes legal, emotional, psychological and behavioral assistance. These situations involve the lives of children, and too much is at stake if a parent is not sure how to navigate in a healthy manner.
Some coparenting cases involve the type of conflict that blocks parents from making an agreement that will make both parents happy, often resulting in gridlock conflict between parents. Here is a list of some of the most notorious problems that lead to conflicts difficult to solve:
Some parents simply refuse to work together. Parents in these cases tend to need the help of the court to obtain a custody order or modify the plan in any way because nothing can get done by agreement between the parents. Every decision must be brought before a judge to be resolved. If this sounds familiar, know that you are not alone. There is help and there is support for finding your way. Co-Parenting Essentials is a good place to start.
The effects of chronic high conflict dynamics of co-parenting will affect every member of the family. Parents dread every exchange and contact with the other parent. A reasonable request for a change to the children’s schedule creates a forum for conflict and power plays between parents. The children may suffer and show signs of distress. The children may tell you one thing and the other parent something else because they are in the middle. Children play both sides in order to find a sense of safety in the situation. In more extreme cases, the children choose to align with one parent and step into the battle against the other parent. Children take a side in order to find peace with at least one of their parents.
Single parents engulfed in a co-parenting dramas may also attract new partners that thrive in conflict situations. New step-parents arriving on the scene will either help settle the conflict or possibly add fuel to the fire. Parents feel threatened in their relationship with their children as a new figure enters the scene and creates some space for themselves.
Joint custody is generally thought to be good for kids because they get to stay connected with both parents. However, if parents cannot work together and children are exposed to the conflict, it can actually be quite damaging to everyone involved. Yet, in these modern times, joint custody is ordered quite often, even in cases when parents are not able to effectively co-parent due to maladaptive attitudes, abusiveness, or the simple lack of willingness.
Co-parenting conflicts can be extremely complex. Parents involved in these cases benefit from help problem-solving. There are many considerations to examine. Attorneys might help sort out the legal aspects but won’t help address the internal conflict parents experience. Parents should take a holistic approach to navigating serious co-parenting problems. Do not underestimate the importance of your own mental health and emotional recovery in this situation. A good online co-parenting class will help you organize your thinking, clarify your priorities, and make decisions that will ultimately bring peace and stability to your situation.
In 20 years of teaching classes about co-parenting, I am convinced that parents benefit immensely from these programs. Since 1998, I have been working with co-parents at all stages of the game. Often, these parents have been embroiled in conflict for years with the other parent before they come to my high conflict co-parenting class. As they move through the material and we discuss their cases, I often hear them say, “I wish I had done this program a long, long time ago.”
This is the reason I wanted to write this article – to encourage more parents to get into a program, earlier rather than later. A lot of damage is done to everyone involved in these circumstances, especially the children, when conflict is ongoing, repeating, and never resolved. My programs help teach parents to stop their part in the saga.
As parents move through a program, they often see the fight itself has been as harmful to their children as the matters they have been fighting about. With support and the facts about co-parenting laid out clearly, parents see the things they can and cannot control. Parents learn to keep the focus on themselves and their own parenting, instead of trying to control the other parent (which is impossible).
If you are recently separated and are unhappy about how the other parent wants to handle custody of the children, then you are understandably upset and emotionally impacted. You are going through a major life transition with many changes happening at once. Life in these circumstances can feel overwhelming.
After the separation, parents face a time of limbo and wonder how their lives will go forward again. It is not only the loss of the relationship you had with the other parent, but also all the hopes and dreams that went with it. It is very sad when you realize your children are losing their single chance to grow up within the context of an intact family.
No matter what you are facing, a co-parenting class will likely help you feel more confident, cope better, and do a better job to support your children moving forward. Parents need support and a pathway out of fearfulness, and a way to stop the insanity of repeating conflicts. In a good class, parents begin to move towards the peace and serenity that comes only when one is certain that their own side of the street is clean.
Co-parenting programs help create peace of mind and a sense of serenity in co-parenting. As I have already written about in my previous blog, “I Just Want My Kids To Be OK,” there is nothing more important than your ability to be happy as you raise your children. We cannot put a price on it. Happy parents tend to raise happy kids because they are demonstrating the skills and attitudes that support happiness in human life. Kids watch and learn to use the same skills in their own lives.
It is unfortunate when parents have to go to court to solve their co-parenting problems, however when parents are toxic towards each other I understand the need for legal oversight. It only takes one uncooperative or ill-willed parent to cause a conflict about co-parenting that cannot be solved by the other. When parents don’t have an aligned understanding of what is best for the children, this is when most of the big conflicts between them begin.
All Co-Parenting Essentials programs will furnish parents a certificate of completion at the end of their class. Although getting a certificate is not the primary reason a parent should pursue a co-parenting class, having one will surely not hurt their case in court, if they must litigate. A Certificate of Completion from a Co-Parenting Essentials class demonstrates to the judge parental responsibility, good will, an interest in doing the right things for their children, and an attempt to resolve conflict prior to litigation. Also, when one parent completes a co-parenting class, the judge will often order the second parent to attend the class as well. If you are feeling exasperated with co-parenting and want the other parent to get on the same page, this might be a helpful legal maneuver for you to consider.
Learning new skills and finding a better way to handle your co-parenting problems can be an exciting journey of personal growth when parents are open to the process. There is a lot to gain from all human experience, and this situation is no exception to the old adage, “Whatever does not kill us makes us stronger.” In a program like COPE, parents are going to learn and take away life skills that are applicable to every relationship and circumstance in their lives. It is motivating when you consider the ripple effects of learning new skills. We all know that children watch and learn how to handle life from their parents. Therefore, how parents handle their separation and subsequent co-parenting relationship affects their children in both the short and long-term. What parents do and how they handle their life problems trickles down through the generations when you think about it. Consider the benefits of attending a good co-parenting class:
The bottom line is that these programs are therapeutic to parents. When parents are happy and confident on their path, then their children are generally better off, too.
The 16-hour COPE program is my premier program. It has been around for over 20 years now and parents give it raving reviews. The COPE program includes interesting reading modules, helpful video messages, journaling, a goal-setting exercise, and an in-person, face-to-face online parenting group experience. Because I want people to have access to this information in a usable form, the COPE program is also offered in Spanish.
In COPE, parents first learn to deal with hard feelings such as grief, anger and sadness. The core of the program helps parents create the correct mindset for co-parenting using positive thinking and self-talk skills. Parents come to truly understand what children need after separation and are encouraged to drop unhealthy co-parenting agendas. Conflict resolution, positive communication skills, boundaries and limits, mediation, and calming exercises are aspects integrated to support change. Parents also learn that there are three different styles of co-parenting. In some high conflict cases, attempts at traditional co-parenting will only cause more harmful conflict that may affect the child and a different co-parenting style is better indicated. As parents see their options more clearly and sanely recognize the limits of their control, they are then able to let go of things that are not working, and rationally move into a style that will offer the most advantages for their children.
When people face something as tragic and devastating as a high conflict co-parenting situation, they must find some takeaways that help them grow and develop wisdom. If parents do not find a way to turn the situation into a growth experience, then nothing is gained and parents despair. Conversely, in the COPE program, parents use their experiences to develop wisdom and a greater sense of internal strength. COPE helps parents identify their own core issues, make a plan of action to address these issues, and move forward on goals for changes that will make a difference in co-parenting, and in the quality of their life in general. This is how we can turn a nightmare into fertile ground for a process of self-discovery and personal growth. Many times, parents find that one change will lead to another in the co-parenting relationship. This is the case in all relationships. We cannot control one another but parents definitely influence with their words and actions. In COPE, parents learn to make their own side of the street clean.
One of the things parents seem to like the most about the COPE program is the personal support they get in the online, face to face group experience. The face to face component of COPE is an unusual aspect of an online program, but I know how much parents need personal connection and a chance to talk about the specific aspects of their case. This is why I worked so hard to find a way to integrate online classes using the Zoom Platform which works easily and reliably.
In Zoom classes, parent get to talk to each other also. They learn they are not alone. Hearing other parents’ stories also helps parents develop a sense of perspective about what they are facing. Parents share ideas, tips, and give each other support and feedback that is encouraging. Constructive criticism is also a part of what parents receive in COPE. No one is perfect and there are times that a challenge given in the right tone and at the right time can be an important aspect of personal growth for parents in this program.
Parents I work with find out that I, too, am a co-parent. As we get to know each other throughout our online journey, parents feel supported and receive validation from someone who has been there. Parents appreciate a respectful challenge to do better from someone else who has stood in their shoes and has a first-hand understanding that what they might be facing. Although co-parenting is often difficult and almost never fair, I challenge parents to always take the high road so they feel a sense of integrity moving forward.
Recently, I have added some shorter programs under the umbrella of Co-Parenting Essentials because I want parents to have access to all the important information there is to have about co-parenting early on in their process.
The SCOPE Certificate Program is a 2-hour program that focuses on helping parents understand the needs of their children and also helps parents develop skills to cope and to curb conflict before it escalates into a bigger problem. These programs are shorter and less expensive, and although they don’t include the face to face group experience, they are full of great information to help parents make good decisions around co-parenting.
If you are separated from your child’s other parent and have concerns about whether you and other parent are doing the right things for you children, taking co-parenting class will be a great investment of your time and money. Don’t wait until things escalate out of control causing a state of anxiety or depression. Your children need you to be ok and for you to know what you are doing as you move forward taking care of them. If you are struggling, the time is now to ask for and get some help. Nothing good comes from doing the same things over and over again expecting a different result in dealing with co-parenting problems. It is an act of sanity and strength to know when to get help and some support to move forward in a peaceful way. Let’s work together to solve your co-parenting problems in Co-Parenting Essentials. I am sure you’ll be glad you did.
To learn more about Erin Bunnell, LMFT, go to www.coparentingessentials.com/about.