Co-Parenting After a Divorce
I started providing teen counseling, young adult therapy, and family therapy in 2003. I have worked with teens, young adults, and families ever since.
Over the past 19 years, I have worked with various families with teenagers, and young adults who have experienced divorce. Divorce is commonly viewed as a bad thing. Yet there are times where making the decision to divorce can be a healthy decision and the right thing to do.
And No matter how it's done, divorce is a painful and challenging experience for all involved.
I have observed some pretty bitter and contentious divorces. I have observed divorces where the ex-spouses have been amicable and friendly. And I have observed divorces that are a combination of the two.
A divorce will be hard on the teenagers and young adults in the family. Yet how the parents manage and handle the divorce and work together after the divorce can mitigate much of the hardship on the kids.
Suggestions for Divorced or Divorcing Parents
Each parent I have worked with who have been through a divorce have stated that they have their teenager's or young adult's best interest at heart during the divorce. Yet sometimes their actions do not reflect this.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "What you do speaks so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying."
We may know in our heart that our kids' best interests are what is most important. Yet when other challenges present themselves, sometimes our actions do not reflect this. And when this happens, it's the kids who tend to be in the middle and who impacted most.
Below are some suggestions for divorced or divorcing parents.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
When we become parents, we want our kids to grow up to be happier, healthier, and more successful adults than we have been. We wish them the world when it comes to life fulfillment. As parents, our goal is to put our all into making this happen.
When it comes to divorce, there can arise some pretty powerful feelings that can sidetrack us from our goal. Feelings caused by the other parent such as anger, resentment, fear, and hurt can easily derail us if we are not mindful.
Teenagers and young adults can often be caught in the middle of these powerful emotions. What this can look like is:
A parent withholding child support or alimony
Refusing to take the kids when it is your time to be with them
Preventing the other parent from seeing the kids when it is the other parents time to be with them
Influencing the kids to not go to the other parent when it's their time to be with them
Communicating to the other parent through your kids instead of directly to the other parent
Talking negatively about the other parent in front of and to your teenagers or young adults
If we are committed to the goal of helping our teenagers and young adults become happier, healthier, and more successful adults, we need to show them the way. It's important that we role model for them:
That we love them enough to put aside powerful emotions toward the other parent for their sake
How to adult during challenging and difficult circumstances in healthy, appropriate ways
Sometimes difficult decisions need to be made that have consequences for others. When this is the case, we can maintain our integrity by taking responsibility for the decision and acting in ways that will mitigate the impact on others
When you keep your "eye on the prize", focus on what is in the best interest of the kid's emotional development, and put aside strong emotions for the sake of the kids, this will help significantly mitigate any negative impact on your teenagers or young adults.
Maintaining Consistency is Key
While there are some parents who manage to remain friends after a divorce, there are some divorces where this is not feasible. If you can't be friends, at least be friendly.
If you are keeping your eye on the prize, it's important to provide consistency for your teenagers and young adults where possible. One way to do this is to maintain a friendly relationship with the other parent.
Your teenagers and young adults will pick up on bitterness and resentment. It's not that you aren't allowed to feel these feelings but behaving in a friendly manner towards the other parent will help provide a sense of safety for the kids.
A divorce turns a teenager and young adult's world upside down. They feel a loss of one parent and fear for the future:
What will happen to us financially?
Will we have to move?
Will I still be able to attend the same school?
Will I have to make new friends and start all over?
Will I still be able to see my mom/dad?
Should teenagers and young adults have these fears consistently running through their minds, it's not uncommon for things like depression, anxiety, social anxiety, and panic attacks to emerge.
When parents are able to show the kids through their actions that the parents are still friendly, working together, cooperative, etc., this will bring the kids an enormous amount of relief.
What's critical is that the parents continue to work together in parenting decisions. Continuing to have parents who are on the same page when it comes to their parenting provides a sense of safety and continuity. This can help stave off stress, fears, anxiety, depression, and other emotional challenges for your teenagers and young adults.
Seeing a Marriage Counselor or Couples Therapist Can Help Post-Divorce
When we experience the intensity of the hurt, anger, resentment, fear, etc., it's important that we talk about these feelings. Find a trusted friend or a marriage counselor or couples therapist. A couples therapist or marriage counselor can work with you in individual therapy to help you navigate the post-divorce emotional challenges.
When we try to manage these powerful emotions on our own, often what ends up happening is that the thoughts and feelings build until they come out through our behavior and actions.
Trying to compartmentalize the powerful emotions and stuff them down is like trying to put a lid on a pressure cooker. The pressure will build until there is an explosion, while it may be targeted at the other parent, the kids will likely be included as casualties.
But isn't it too late at this point to see a marriage counselor or couples therapist? It depends on the reason you are seeing them.
If the decision to divorce is final or you have already been divorced, you wouldn't be seeing a couples counselor or marriage therapist to repair the relationship. It may not be beyond the realm of possibility but unlikely.
What a couples therapist and marriage counselor can do, is to help you co-parent together through and/or after the divorce. We have parents who have divorced come see a marriage counselor or couples therapist for this very reason.
There are some very complex parenting challenges that arise in a divorce. Having a therapist skilled in helping you navigate these challenges can make all the difference in your teenager or young adult's life.
Teen Therapy & Young Adult Counseling: Katy Teen & Family Counseling
At our Katy, Tx location of Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we have teen therapists, young adult counselors, and couples counselors or marriage therapists who can help.
If you feel you are ready to meet with a marriage counselor or couples therapist who can help you navigate co-parenting after a divorce, now is the time to start.
And if you have a teenager or young adult who may be struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, social anxiety, performance anxiety, depression, or other struggles, our teen therapists and young adult counselors can help.
To start your journey, all you need to do is follow these three simple steps:
Contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling
Talk with one of our therapists or schedule a phone call
Let our therapists help you and your family today
Other Therapy and Counseling Services Offered at Katy Teen & Family Counseling
At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we provide a variety of therapy approaches that are supported by research and shown to be effective. Some of the teen therapy and young adult counseling we offer are:
Board Certified Neurofeedback Therapy
Peak performance (optimal academic brain performance)
Peak performance (optimal athletic brain performance)
Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR Therapy)
Group Therapy for Teens
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Couples Therapy & Marriage Counseling
It can be stressful parenting a struggling teen or young adult. More than anything we want to be able to help them. Sometimes couples may disagree about how to do so. This can inadvertently create stress in a relationship.
And there may be times where the actions of you or your spouse or partner has damaged the trust in your relationship. You want to reestablish the trust in a relationship you have worked hard for over the years.
Relationships are complex and take work. It can be helpful to have an objective, third party who is also experienced in marriage counseling and couples therapy. At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we also provide couples therapy and marriage counseling.
About the Author
Jason Drake is a Licensed Clinical Worker - Supervisor (LCSW-S), Board Certified in Neurofeedback, EMDR trained, and a Certified Brain Health Professional through the Amen Clinics. He has provided therapy to teens and families since 2003 and is the Owner & Lead Clinician at Katy Teen & Family Counseling.
He specializes in leading teams of high performing therapists who also specialize in teen therapy, family counseling, and counseling young adults.
Jason is also a leader in the field of teen, young adult, and family counseling providing coaching and technical assistance to teen Residential Treatment Centers across the country.
Jason is also a regular contributor to various magazines and publications lending his expertise to various mental health related topics. You can check these articles out on our "Featured Articles" service page on our website.
He has also been a guest on Fox 26 Houston and on a podcast, "Grow a Group Practice" with Alison Pidgeon.
If you are ready to start your counseling journey, you can email, call, or text us directly at:
Phone Number: 346-202-4662