One of the most difficult aspects of divorce revolves around co-parenting. As a divorce lawyer in Gwinnett County, Georgia, I have witnessed the toll that co-parenting arrangements can have. Dividing up parent time and households is not a fun or easy task. Although I am first and foremost a family lawyer, there always comes a time during child custody cases when I have to wear my “therapist hat” and give my clients tips on how to be a healthy co-parent. If you’re struggling with co-parenting, take a deep breath, sit back, relax, and read the rest of this post. First things first. Read this twice:
There is no space for control in co-parenting.
To maintain a healthy perspective and keep yourself physically and mentally healthy throughout the process of co-parenting during and after litigation, you must let go of the feeling or need to control. In addition to letting go of control, you must remember these three critical points.
- You are not going to ever be able to control everything that goes on in the other parent’s house.
- Your kids are going to be okay as long as nothing physically or mentally dangerous is going on in the other household.
- You are going to be okay.
Here are my top three processes for letting go of control in a co-parenting situation:
Meditation – or mindfulness – is a practice that can reduce stress, give you a sense of calm, and increase clarity and happiness. If you’re new to meditation, there are apps or YouTube videos that have guided meditation for beginners. There are many ways to meditate, so I encourage you to do some research online and try something that appeals most to you. Meditation has been done for centuries and numerous studies have shown that the emotional and physical benefits of meditation have a lasting effect when you have a consistent practice.
Find a good therapist or counselor that you can talk to. I often hear, “Well, I’m not the one that’s broken, it’s the other parent.” You don’t have to be “broken” to seek therapy. As humans, we all have to go through hard things at some point in our lives. A trusted therapist will give you the tools to deal with the hard issue(s) in your life. They may help you to see different sides, give you tips on how to manage situations, and guide you to make choices that result in a positive outcome.
Even if you’ve gone through child custody arrangements successfully but you’re dealing with a difficult co-parent, a therapist can give you the tools to arm yourself with what the toxic co-parent is throwing at you. You can’t control whether the co-parent is going to be a good person or a good parent, all you can control is your own reactions and your own methodologies for responding to them. Therapy is also great for children in order to deal with the reality of their own situations. There is no shame in seeking help for your children or for yourself.
Breathwork is a term for various controlled breathing practices. Some simple breathing techniques can help to move your body out of fight-or-flight mode and into a more relaxed state of mind (and body). The beauty of breathwork is that it can be done anywhere and at any time. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms us down and reduces stress, anxiety, and anger. You can use it to re-ground during moments of stress, such as right before you have to face a difficult co-parent.
Here’s a simple breathwork exercise:
- Breathe through your nose and not through your mouth.
- Inhale for a count to 4-5 and exhale for 1-2 counts longer than you inhaled. For example, inhale for 5 seconds; and exhale for 7 seconds.
- Do this for 2 minutes minimum and you will really feel your body start to calm down which allows your mind to think much more rationally about what’s going on so you can make decisions that are healthy for you and for your children.
What happens if you don’t let go of control when it comes to co-parenting?
You will never feel good or at peace as long as you’re holding on to this need to control. You will end up in court year after year, or as much as the courts allow, and the only people who benefit from co-parents who are so bent on getting each other back or fighting each other are the lawyers! For your peace of mind, and for the sake of your children, don’t fight fire with fire.
I am a divorce lawyer at Pepitone Family Law serving Gwinnett County and the greater Atlantic area, not a therapist. I do care deeply about my clients and felt compelled to share these tips to help anyone struggling.
If you need legal support around co-parenting, divorce, or domestic litigation, call (770) 800-2681 to book a consultation or schedule a consultation online.