Johnny slumps into the car after a week at his home with Mom. You glance into the rear view mirror and *sigh* internally. She did it again. Will she ever learn? What is it this time?
‘John, what’s up?’
‘Johnny, you got to tell me.’
He proceeds to describe the new sport his mom signed him up for: Co-ed Tae Kwon Doh. Johnny plays select baseball and is highly competitive. But at 10, he does not want anything to do with girls. You know he doesn’t want to do this sport, but how are you going to handle HER?
The CoParenting Issue
I typically talk to parents about the delicate balance of getting feedback from kids about their activities while coparenting. If your child has 2 homes, this process becomes trickier, but parents at the same home can experience some of the same issues. Say one parent has plans with a child and the child doesn’t want to go. Child doesn’t tell the parent who wants to take them for a variety of reasons. One reason-the child decided they didn’t want to participate after visitation ended. The child may feel like they don’t have the opportunity to talk about it. What can the child do in this situation? He or she tells the coparent who doesn’t have a lot to do with the activity. What happens next determines how much anxiety this kind of conversation engenders in the future.
The child worries about having to do something they don’t want to.
The child worries they will hurt the parent’s feelings.
The coparent wonders how to handle this information and why the child is telling them and not their coparent.
The child worries whether they will get in trouble for not agreeing with the parent.
The other coparent feels blindsided when they find out the child’s feelings and worries that something is wrong with the relationship.
Everyone can get into a spiral of anxiety, shame, and fear.
Creating Balance In CoParenting
All of this anxiety can be handled well by the coparents prior to the parent showing up at the door for the activity. Or it can be dumped into the conversation at the door. Or postponed until the child tells everyone they are frustrated and angry through their behavior. Not a fun group of choices.
While none of this is ideal, the best thing for the parents to do is communicate about the child’s feelings, talk about the point of the activity, and allow the parents to make an informed adult decision. The tie breaker, if there needs to be one, can be the parent who has visitation or control at the time of the activity.
What does the child learn from this process?
- Mom and Dad respond to but aren’t manipulated by your feelings.
- Going directly to the person makes things simpler and faster.
- Being direct about wants and needs means you are more likely to get what you want.
Once you’ve experienced this situation, you never want to go back to it. But if this type of thing happens often in your child’s life, positive steps for healing and change need to occur. Maybe your child needs someone to talk to so that they learn how to go to their parent with their feelings. Coaching from a therapist who knows your child, and each home, assists in navigating some of the speedbumps from CoParenting, even if there is only one home. Call me to talk about your situation! 940-222-8703 ext 700.