Every system needs to receive a steady supply of energy or it will quit working. A GPS is the same. Whether it is from a battery or power from the car, the GPS requires energy to operate. Your family is no different.
It is also a system that needs power to keep working. In this case, the power is the energy put into caring for your children. Who supplies this energy? You, your coParent, and a Parenting Coordinator. Others put energy into the system as well—perhaps grandparents, teachers, your rabbi, the Girl Scout leader, friends, and counselors. You will all keep putting energy into the system until your children are adults.
Systems not only need energy; they also require maintenance. Nothing works forever without needing repairs or tune-ups. For example, once a year each GPS satellite must restart its engines to push it back into the proper orbit. Gravity pulls the satellite toward the earth, and this changes its orbit slightly. Without the yearly push from the engines, the satellite’s orbit would continue to veer off course.
Trying to fix the orbit now takes a long burn from the engines to produce enough power to boost it back into the right orbit. If this isn’t done, the satellite will eventually fall so low that it reaches the point of no return. Then it will start to burn as it speeds toward the ground— flames shooting out as it moves across the sky—and crashes into the earth or falls into the sea. Parts of the satellite might be found and repaired. Other times, however, it crashes into the hard ground in a million pieces.
The Earth’s pull on satellites can be compared to old habits and behaviors that pull you and your children on course. It is easy to slip back into unhelpful behavior, especially when the new way of doing things hasn’t become a habit yet. It is also easy to coast along, not putting energy into the family system. The effects aren’t seen at first. You can coast for a while without problems. You don’t pay attention. But you are slowing down. At this point, problems will soon pop up. Only now it takes twice as much energy to get the plan back on track. You can eventually reach the point where the problems are so hard to fix that your plan crashes and burns. Maintenance is much easier, in the long run, than repair.
Your parenting plan needs your attention and energy over time. When you begin to create a plan, there is a lot to do. There are forms to fill out and meetings to attend. You will have homework—reading, calling the children’s schools for documents, or checking on dental records. Then you will be busy with the nuts and bolts of the plan: determining the best interests of your children, discovering areas where you and your coparent don’t agree, identifying team members to bring into the plan, and finally, writing the plan itself.
Once the plan is established, energy is still needed, but not as much or as often. A maintenance schedule is set up. You will keep checking on the plan just as you would glance at the GPS when driving to be sure you are still on course. On track? Check. Speed limit? Check. Gas levels? Check. Now you can focus on enjoying the journey.
From COPARENTING AFTER DIVORCE: A GPS FOR HEALTHY KIDS by Debra K. Carter, PhD.