Updated: Apr 24, 2022
In this episode of Split. The After Ever After Podcast we speak with Helen Yack and Gabbi Silverberg of Rise Up Counselling to answer my most frequently asked question as a divorce and co-parenting coach: "What do I do when my ex and I have completely different parenting styles?!".
Helen and Gabbi bring 40 years of experience in child protection, therapy, and social work. In addition to answering the above question, we asked them to explain other common reasons that they see conflict among co-parents, and how it can be resolved. They explain what they see as recurring problems, and how there are better ways to address them that won't keep the drama and fighting going. We also discuss when it may be appropriate to speak to children about what they want in a divorce, and how this can be done in an effective way.
This episode may push you to examine our own role as a co-parent, and how you communicate with your ex. Gabbi and Helen offer expert information that can give you some insight into the dynamics of your separation.
The content on this podcast is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
EP.29 How to Put Your Child First: Co-parenting Through Conflict & Managing Differences in Parenting Styles With Rise Up Counselling
What are some of the common mistakes you see co-parents make?
Helen: There are definitely common mistakes that we're seeing. You know, in our practice, we're seeing a variety of both moms and dads and step-parents, and so we're seeing a lot of players in the families. And so what I would say is one of the biggest mistakes that I see families make or parents is that they're driven by their emotions and they are not [00:08:00] able to actually put those aside for a second to focus on their children.
You know, there's affairs involved, there's bankruptcy involved there's lies involved and people are angry and you know what they're allowed to be angry. Absolutely. And we work with them around separating that anger from parenting. I say this over and over and over again, you are entitled to hate.
You can hate your ex all you want. But you have to love your children more.
And so if you can love your child more than you hate your ex, you can start putting in resources and strategies to make things better. I think also parents are very driven by emotions, they want to make sure that they get the person, right.
They want to make sure that they're retaliating, they want to make sure that they're getting, you know payback. And so, instead of working with them and finding ways to support them, they want revenge and [00:09:00] they want to prove that their partners suck. Yup. They never
made a healthy meal in our 15 years of marriage, they don't even know how to cook. I did all the cooking. So instead of managing your expectations and saying like, okay, so they're not ornate chefs. Okay. So they're not going to have all of their daily suggested foods in one sitting. That's okay. But parents are just seeking revenge, and they're using children as their weapon.
Gabbi: What I would want to add is not only is their emotion driving their behavior, what the common mistake is is that once a marriage is over the roles change. So the rules that may have brought down the relationship, whether it's like you said, an affair or there's alcoholism or whatever, People use those as coping mechanisms. That's not necessarily the cause of the marriage breakdown. Those are some of the symptoms of why the marriage broke down.
So being able to recognize that your ex may be different or change and not be the same person as they were in the marriage... understanding that their roles have changed and assessing your co-parent as a parent outside the marriage and not as a spouse.
And being able to sort of give people opportunity. And if you give people opportunity to parent and reestablish those roles and responsibilities, you may see what the real light looks like. So can they step up to the plate? Can they actually fulfill their duties? Because it is about the fight.
It's like, our marriage is breaking up. I want 50, 50 that's. Okay. Well, whether they can handle 50, 50 or not is yet to be seen, but to not give them an opportunity to parent the way that they maybe never had an opportunity to parent is really up to the kids. It's up to that particular parent with the child.
And so how do we teach parents to stay out of the way of the other parent and how do we teach them to not be the savior or the rescuer of trying to save them that other parent is an awful parent. Well, maybe they are, maybe they're not, but [00:11:00] your kid has to realize that. I'm basing it on kids that might be a little bit older who are more verbal. Age and development play a huge part in all of this as well. So those are things that need to take into consideration, but that's one of the mistakes that parents get, trying to really interfere with the other parents relationship with the children.
When there is a disagreement about parenting choices or styles, how can co-parents determine the difference between what is unacceptable versus what is disagreeable?
Gabbi: So, it's a great point because it really is able to distinguish, you know, how much you intervene and how much you, like we've talked about step away and be that neutral person. And it really is allowing the opportunity to have that time to grow with their parent.
So even though you disagree with their food choices, even though you disagree with how they may spend their time with [00:16:00] them or disagree, some of those parenting styles, so that even discipline techniques, you may disagree on things like that. So, you want to be able to be on the same page as much as possible, but bedtime may look different from one house to the other when it's time to remove the baby soother may be different from the other- that may be disagreeable because kids are going to learn. If you understand child development, kids are resilient on the one hand, but are going to blend into the home environment. They're going to just merge into whatever the home environment is. So in one house, they actually might want their soother there and in one house, they may not. Those are the things that we would talk about in terms of letting go or toilet training or situations like that.
When it becomes unacceptable is when the impact onto the child becomes more intrusive.
So things like when things are happening at school or they're missing, they're getting late. So the child is late every day when they're with one parent at school that impacts them, that impacts their socialization. They're not able to fit in with the rest of the [00:17:00] class they are missing their morning routine. That can start impacting onto their behavior and that is something that may be unacceptable and needs to be tweaked.
Anything that would relate would go right into the border lining things, or even beyond things that are like abuse and neglect. Right. So, you know things like inappropriate discipline, things that are physical discipline, criminalized, physical discipline, obviously you want to get involved.
So when you think of things as unacceptable, I would think of things like, do you need to get other systems involved?
Are you starting to call the police? Do you need to get children's aid involved? Do you need to call your lawyer? Those are the things that are now leading towards the unacceptable behavior.
What are some of the common ways a parent unintentionally alienate their children from their other parent?
Helen: Right. So When the conversation goes, something like this, mommy's gonna miss you so much. I don't know what I'm going to do without you all weekend, I'm going to be so lonely. I think I'm going to cry. Go, go have a good time with daddy, but I'm going to be so upset.
Okay. So you tell me how I think the child, you know, at the age of 5, 6, 7 is going to want to leave their mother's home after they are exposed to a whole conversation about how distraught that parent's going to be without them. Things like: you're not going to have a good time and you know what, you're going to miss, you know, cousin Susie's birthday party, there's going to be, you know, balloons and clowns and ponies. I [00:22:00] can't believe you're going to miss it. You have to go to daddy's this weekend.
So when parents are not thinking about the messaging that they're giving to their children and even though they're not saying don't go, I don't want you to go, everything indirectly they're saying is impacting that child before they get into the car.
Or when parents think that children can't hear them when they're in another room or when their phone is left around and they go to play with their phone and they're reading text messages and children are hearing their parents say, I can't believe they have to go, I'm going to call my lawyer. This is wrong. I don't want this anymore. I need to have a hundred percent custody. And so it's just understanding that [00:23:00] it's diverse. And it's indirect and there are so many ways that you can encourage your child to go, who might seem hesitant and then maybe ask why, what is causing the hesitation? Is it that they're not allowed to sleep with blankie when they get there? Is it that they really are upset they're going to miss cousin Susie's birthday. So if that's the case, you know what, make an alternate plan. We'll get together with cousin Susie later, you know, next week when you're here, we'll have them over. We'll have pizza. We'll have a little party.
So it's really also just trying to get to why, why is it that they're not going and usually the reason is that they just need to feel heard.
To learn more about the services offered at Rise Up Counselling and connect with Helen and Gabbi visit their website www.riseupcounselling.com