A Parenting Coordinator is a professional who helps parents map out the plan for their children during and after divorce. The Parenting Coordinator can be a lawyer, mediator, psychologist, social worker, or mental health professional. This is a person who has gone through special training and is qualified by the court for such work. Parenting coordination can help families and parents in many ways. Here are some examples:
• Helping parents shift from romantic partners to parenting partners
• Teaching parents how to manage negative feelings in a positive way
• Giving parents and children good communication tools
• Setting up ways to work out conflicts between parents
• Keeping to the court-ordered plan
• Saving legal costs
The Parenting Coordinator works with parents, for children. The children are the focus. Let me repeat that: your children are the focus. Not you. Not your ex, as wrong as you feel he is. Not the new stepmother, as wrong as you think she is. Your children are the ones who had no say in the divorce and who need both parents now more than ever.
TRY THIS: The next time you meet with your ex to talk about plans for your children, take a picture of the children with you. Lay the picture between you and your ex. When you begin to stray off topic, look at the photo and then refocus on your children. It’s about them! In my work as a Parenting Coordinator, I find that this is the most important step in a parenting plan. Parents who learn to keep the children as the focus can, and do, set up good plans for their children—the kind of plans that get your children to their destinations feeling happy and healthy. It can be done. You can do it.
Keeping the children as the focus, in one way, is very easy; in another way, it can be quite hard. It is easy, as a parent, to want the best for your children. That is a natural feeling for a parent. But keeping the children as your focus after divorce often means letting go of anger, hurt, and resentment. That is much harder to do.
When my daughter was three years old, she had a terrible fever. Her doctor had given her medicine to take and told me to bathe her in cool water as needed. The medicine helped a little, but her fever raged on throughout the night. I stayed up all night, bathing her to cool her off, rocking her in my arms, and feeding her ice chips. It was easy then to focus just on her. I would never have thought of putting her in bed and going to sleep myself until she was better. But in a divorce, there is no medical emergency demanding that you stay focused on your children. You might be hurting so much yourself that it’s hard to think clearly.
Now is the time, however, to focus on your children, just as I did on that long night with my daughter. Once a parenting plan is in place, you can relax and follow the plan. The parenting plan will include you and your ex (or soon-to-be ex), as well as other people important to your children. A grandmother may take care of the children after school, and so is an important part of their lives. An aunt may drive the children to karate lessons. A nephew may coach your son’s soccer team and be a role model.
Your ex may have remarried, and a stepmother is now part of the plan. Everyone has their part to play in making sure that your children reach their final destination. The parenting plan lets you know what to expect. It will change as your children grow, since what they need today will not be the same as what they need in five years. The plan, like the GPS, guides you turn by turn. And, if you make a wrong turn, you and the Parenting Coordinator can “recalculate” the plan, just as a GPS figures out a new route after you get off course.
From COPARENTING AFTER DIVORCE: A GPS FOR HEALTHY KIDS by Debra K. Carter, PhD.