Hello! Welcome to the CoParenting Better Blog.
I’m Jon Peters, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been working with separated parents and their children for over twenty years. I primarily work as an individual and family therapist, coparent coach, and mediator. I’ve also been a custody evaluator, arbitrator (in Indiana, this court-appointed role is called Parent Coordinator), and expert witness. I’ve delivered over 250 divorce education classes to more than 6,000 parents. I’ve also taught more than 80 undergraduate and graduate courses as an adjunct faculty at Indiana University in the schools of Social Work and Public Health. I am also a divorced parent.
Over the years, I’ve seen how very complicated and challenging parenting during and after separation can be.
Certainly, parenting in any family situation is often very difficult. When parents separate, they are faced with the extreme challenge of simultaneously dealing with all the typical parenting issues, helping their child cope with the separation, and going through arguably the most stressful event of their life. Add to that having to frequently interact with their former partner who is likely the most triggering person for them ever.
In working with so many parents for the past two decades, I not only appreciate how complicated parenting after separation is but also have learned practical and helpful strategies to address post-separation issues. One thing I learned early in my career is that divorce resources are often unhelpful to parents. Divorce books and court-mandated divorce classes typically tell parents advice such as: don’t fight in front of your children. But, those resources don’t offer ways to accomplish that. Parents already know that putting children in the middle of their conflicts isn’t good. What parents need is explanation and guidance to actually do what they know is best.
I learned how to be truly helpful by confronting the following puzzle: Why is it that the two parents in front of me are relatively functional in all the domains of their lives (work, community, church, volunteer projects, and so on), but are so remarkably not functional when having to deal with each other?
So many parents seemed to be able to deal with stress and complications in these other domains but instantly and dramatically fail when having to do a simple task together (for example deciding whether their child signs up for Little League this coming season). This problem presented itself over and over and it is tragic but also fascinating. Understanding why this problem exists for parents was the key for my developing helpful strategies that actually impacted the ability of sets of parents to be civil and collaborative. The core issue is: separated parents are more stressed (as in, Code Red) when dealing with each other compared to even the most stressful situations in their other life domains (usually, Code Orange at most). In general, people continue to function well until they cross their upper threshold of stress. And, with each other, they often begin the interaction near, or at, Code Red. Our brains don’t function well at that high stress level.
There is no simple trick to make parenting after separation uncomplicated. But, the good news is that there are things you can learn and do that will have a very positive impact on your ability to parent and coparent. My approach goes like this:
Parents need to:
- understand how stress impacts their thinking and behavior,
- implement strategies to cope with their own grief and lower their stress,
- structure their interactions with their child’s other parent so that they reduce the negative effects of stress,
- adopt a policy of not exposing their children to their own anger and their conflicts with the other parent, and
- adopt a policy of being civil with the other parent (even if that person isn’t being civil or simply doesn’t deserve it).
I know that that sounds like the unhelpful advice I complained about in the divorce books. I'm guessing you may be thinking either, That's too rosy, or, I've tried that and my ex is too much of a jerk for it to work. But, I’m going to share the strategies I’ve learned that actually give parents the capacity to achieve those important goals. I can't control your ex any more than you can. I can promise that if you practice the techniques I offer through this blog, as well as my podcast, webinars, and coaching sessions, you will have lower stress and be more satisfied with your parenting and your relationship with your other parent. I promise. I can say that because I've seen it work with hundreds and hundreds of parents over the past twenty years.
This blog will provide information that is practical and effective.
I have been truly blessed to get to work with so many wonderful families over the past two decades. In gratitude, I am committed to helping a wide set of parents and their children. To that end, I offer this free content and have cut the overhead costs of my practice so I can offer personalized coparent coaching sessions 40% lower than my standard fee. I also offer parents an initial one-hour session at half that rate.
Submit your e-mail below to get on my e-mail list to get additional discounts on my services and access to my free webinars. Click the Like button to stay apprised of my practice news via my Facebook page. Feel free to send a comment in the comment box below. And, feel very free to contact me via the contact button at the bottom of this page if you would like to schedule an affordable, convenient video-conferencing coparent coaching session.