While parents come to me for co-parenting counseling when they don’t know what else to do – or because the court has ordered them to – co-parenting counseling should never be a last resort.
It should be a first choice.
That’s because of the generational legacy that comes from fixing your family today. Not only do you create a better and healthier environment for your own children to grow up – you teach them a different way to treat people, and set a new model for parenting that they will take into their own futures, and the future generations of your family.
One of the biggest problems that I see in dysfunctional families is the legacy of dysfunction. It keeps replicating itself, continuing unhealthy patterns for generations.
But you can change your legacy.
When I work with a family on co-parenting, I look at it through the lens of any positive impact that I can make where that family is able to come together and work together more successfully, I know this will impact the entire life of this child — their future relationships, who they choose to marry or be friends with, and eventually how they parent.
Generations of Impact
In my career, I have had the joy of watching a lot of families grow. When I was a school principal, I saw up close the difference between functional families and dysfunctional families – how their children did in school, how they fared socially, and more.
In my first session with a new family, I offer co-parenting best practices and education to establish how important are the decisions they’re making today. We discuss the far-reaching impact their choices will have on their children’s future.
I’m not talking about decisions like where they’re going to school or if they should do horseback riding camp or learning to shoot a bow and arrow. I’m talking about decisions parents make to reduce conflict between themselves.
All the research says that parents’ marital status is not what causes positive or negative emotional health for children. It’s the conflict that exists between the parents that has profound and long-lasting effects on kids – whether the parents are together or not.
Divorced parents do not corner the market on bad parenting and conflict.
Plenty of married people have really poor coparenting skills and high levels of conflict. That could play out through tension, a lack of affection, coldness, straight out fighting in front of the kids, and all of that is more damaging than divorce.
Telling It Straight
I won’t say that kids aren’t affected by divorce. But that effect is temporary…if the parents get along and are respectful, kind, collegial.
It takes a year to 18 months for a child to work through the grief of the divorce. Divorce is like a death — for the parents, it’s the death of a vision; for the children, it’s a death of the life they had which was safe and secure and comfortable even if their parents were fighting.
They go through all the stages of grief, not necessarily in a linear fashion, but once they get through that, if the parents get along, and work together, the kids will be emotionally healthy and at a lower risk level for mental and physical health issues.
What happens for children whose parents remain in conflict is they internalize it as actual trauma that never resolves. It stays in their brain and processes as they get older in a variety of ways that is very risky for them.
The worst situation for a kid is when parents were in high conflict during the marriage and remain in high conflict post-marriage, because the child never gets relief. That’s the worst of everything. Those are kids at the highest risk level.
Their self-esteem becomes so damaged, and it follows them throughout their lives. That’s where the generational legacy comes in: do you want your children to continue a negative and unhealthy cycle? Or do you want them to be able to form healthy and vibrant relationships that nourish all around them?
Do your kids a favor, and break the cycle for them.