Barbara Rothberg, DSW, LCSW

Therapy, Coaching, Mediation and Parent Coordination

 
 
 
       

Parent Coordination

P arent coordination is the process where divorced or separated parents meet with a mediator to resolve issues they have with co-parenting their children.    

Mom thinks that her child should be on a soccer team, take music lessons and also a drama class each week. Dad thinks his child should take judo, learn tennis and work with a tutor each week. Who is "right?" They fight over their own ideas and cannot resolve the issue. They need to meet with a parent coordinator.

A parent coordinator is generally a family therapist who has training in couple and family dynamics with additional training in mediation, divorce issues and child development, and can help parents co-parent more effectively. The parent coordinator functions as a mediator and occassionally as an arbitrator, where s/he makes a final decision in a conflictual situation.

In the above example, where each parent has a different idea of what activities their child should engage in, they can bring the argument to a parentt coordinator for assistance. The parent coordinator will give each person the opportunity to explain why s/he believes their view is correct. Each parent will be able to talk about what is important to them. Ideally, the other parent will  be able to listen and together they will be able to figure out what is best for the child. Often, however, in these situations, the parents are very angry at one another and their feelings about other issues spill over into each discussion making it feel impossible to arrive at a mutual decision. But for the sake of the child, they must and they do get there.

The role of the parent coordinator can be complicated and skill of the parent coordinator is important. S/he will help the couple separate out issues, and look at each situation separately. Acknowleding the anger is important, but not getting into it is also important. It's a delicate balance. They are divorced for reasons and reminding them of that is sometimes helpful. Learning to talk about issues, particularly if the children are young, is an important skill for them to learn as they have committed to co-parenting. Establiishing rules can also be helpful. Sometimes that might mean that each parent can choose one activity for the child (and the child must want to do it) or sometimes the parent who likes that activity can organize it on his or her time. Agreeing on basics like screen time, bed time etc can also make life easier for everyone involved. It is not necessary to have the exact same schedule in each home, but it is helpful to have the schedules and rules, more or less, similar.

Most parents want to do get along well as they really do have their children's best interests at heart. They can learn to have a decent, respectful relationship and if they do, their children will thrive. If they don't, their children will suffer.

 

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