“I want to live with my dad. Not because I love him more and I love you less but because I’m a boy, and he is a man. I’m 16 years old. I have a voice, and I will tell the judge and mediator that this is what I want, and they have to listen to me. I am going to live with my dad.”
O, the trials and tribulations of co-parenting. What does a mother do when her child is adamant about changing the custody agreement? It is very easy, in this instance, for a mother to feel like a failure. She might ask, “What did I do wrong that he doesn’t want to live with me?” I interviewed a segment of men for this piece who say their mothers did nothing wrong. Josh and Andrew were both sixteen years old when their parents divorced. Both wanted to live with their dads. Being with their dad meant feeling better understood. He is a man, and I am a boy who will grow up to be a man one day. It meant they had someone to talk to about “boy” things. In Andrew’s case, he could go into the backyard and play ball with his dad while talking about his girl crush. When a marriage dissolves or a couple separates, and children are involved, parents must put their differences aside and focus on what’s best for the kiddos.
To co-parent well, McGoldrick et al. (2015) emphasize the significance of parents adjusting their schedules to make it easy for children to maintain relationships with both parents. Research identifies several significant factors that contribute to the healthy adjustment of children to co-parenting:
– Children must have their fundamental psychological and financial needs satisfied.
– Assistance to sustain the ties to their families that were significant to them before the divorce or dissolution of the parental relationship must be in place. That typically refers to both parents and other extended family members, such as grandparents.
– Parents who are generally supportive of each other and helpful.
In her book Blend – The Secret to Co-Parenting and Creating a Balanced Family, author Mashonda says, “After our divorce, my ex and I despised each other.” Today, Mashonda, her ex, and his new wife Alicia are one happily blended family that spends major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas together. They blend so well that Alicia wrote the foreword to Blend, which is filled with sage advice.
Mashonda says it is critical to “Honor thy Co-Parent by accepting your ex for who they are in your life as a parenting partner and to do so selflessly and unconditionally, without expectations. The one thing she and her ex had in common was unconditional, nonjudgmental, and everlasting love for their son. She knew her ex wanted to be a great father, and he knew she wanted to be a great mother. That was the guiding principle of their interactions.
Dictionary.com defines honor as showing high respect or great esteem for someone. By honoring another, you are saying you see great value in them. When parents have come to a place of accepting the end of their romantic relationship and can shift the focus to prioritizing the needs of their children, they have laid the foundation for navigating a co-parenting relationship with honor and respect.
Reference: McGoldrick, M., Preto, N.A. G., & Carter, B. A. (2015). The Expanding Family Life Cycle (5th ed.). Pearson Education
Edith Chase is a certified Dating and Relationship Coach to Singles and Pre-Committed Couples. She is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy. Edith feels called to help individuals, premarital couples, and married couples create healthy relationships. In her free time, Edith enjoys perusing farmer’s markets and cooking delicious meals while singing along to one of the many songs on her diverse playlists. You can email Edith at firstname.lastname@example.org.