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Published on September 18, 2018

Coparenting 101: 17 Helpful Strategies for Divorced Parents

Coparenting 101: 17 Helpful Strategies for Divorced Parents

When people separate or divorce, one of their biggest challenges is coparenting their children together. As a Marriage and Family Therapist in Chicago, I often see divorced parents struggle with how to raise their children together.

One parent has a certain set of rules, and the other does it completely differently. It can be a real challenge to navigate this part of the divorce process.

Yet over the years, I have seen couples successfully raise their children together after a divorce. It takes a little attention and focus, but there are number of key strategies that these divorced couples employ to make coparenting much easier.

1. Communicate clearly.

When couples who are able to communicate coparenting items easily and without much emotion, they get a lot of the work of parenting done quickly. Yet when their discussions about parenting items are filled with emotion, then it muddies the waters.

If you find yourself fighting with your ex about all sorts of coparenting issues, you might want to set up a method of communication which reduces the emotion.

Perhaps a dedicated email thread that only has parenting items might keep the channels of communication more clean.

2. Clarify rules.

Many families we see here at our practice in Chicago have different rules at different houses for their children. This can certainly work, but the rules need to be clearly defined by the parents.

Where children struggle is when they are unclear about what the rules of each house are, and then try to manipulate the rules to get their way.

Clear communication of what the expectations are at each house can go a long way towards creating balance and stability.

3. Get out of the past.

It is important to be sure that any lingering items from your marriage stay as much in the past as possible.

Of course there will by dynamics from the marital relationship that persist in the coparenting relationship, but couples benefit by bringing their relationship out of the past and trying to create new ways of interacting around parenting items.

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4. Don’t triangulate.

One of the more difficult dynamics that we see in Family Therapy is when couples triangulate their children.

Triangulation is when whatever is unresolved between the parents gets transmitted through their interactions with the children.

In other words, the parents hostility and tension gets absorbed by the children and the children start acting it out. It can be very confusing when this happens, and Family Therapy can significantly help when this dynamic occurs.

5. Bless and release.

One thing that troubles a lot of people after a break up or divorce is that they continually hold on to old grudges or complaints.

In order to coparent more effectively, it can be helpful to bless and release your ex. This mean wishing them well and letting go of old hurts.

Can you hope for our ex that they have all good things and find the life and love that they are looking for? This sort of neutrality can go a long way with coparenting from a more balanced place.

6. Practice mindful parenting.

Many experts will tell parents to try to stay more calm than their child. If you are anxious, stressed and angry, then your child may become those things too.

Coparenting with an ex adds another layer of difficulty and potentially upsetting emotions. It is important to practice being mindful of your anxiety, stress and anger levels when parenting, and also when interacting with your coparent.

Finding ways to stay relaxed and put things in perspective can help.

7. Develop a support network.

Having a good team of trusted people in your corner can help to make sure you don’t feel alone in the process of coparenting. Talking with other parents who are divorced or separated might help you feel less alone in the process.

Additionally, having a trusted counselor or therapist in your corner who can help you look at your blind spots, can make a big difference.

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8. Practice presence.

Staying in the moment when parenting can be a useful thing whether you are coparenting, doing it alone, or alongside your partner.

Our minds can race all over the place when we are managing a lot of things in our family life. Yet taking time to stay in the moment and be present with your child will help calm and stabilize the situation.

If you are worried about future events, or stressed about what happened before, it takes you out of the present, which can be full of opportunities for meaningful experiences with your child.

9. Practice “I” statements.

A lot of couples will get in trouble by blaming their ex in front of their child. It can be difficult for them not to criticize their ex, or say something disparaging. Yet this can have a negative impact on the child.

Instead of pointing the finger, it helps to practice “I” statements. Talk about your frustration and how you get overwhelmed by difficult situations rather than commenting on how your ex made mistakes or is selfish.

Talking about your own experience helps you own your own power in the situation.

10. Learn to compromise.

If coparents are constantly arguing about their schedules, money, or what the rules are, then it can cause a very hostile and chaotic environment for the children.

Yet couples who learn to work together and compromise on the endless, daily family items that need to be negotiated, end up creating a more stable and calm environment for their children.

Even if you insist that you should have the children on a particular holiday because your ex had them the previous year, being willing to compromise and make alternate arrangements can pay off in the long run.

11. Give a little.

Coparents who are generous with one another, even if they are still upset about their breakup, help create an environment of wellbeing in their family.

If your coparent asks for a random extra weekend with the children, and you know that it is your turn that weekend, being generous and giving a little can go a long way towards generating good will.

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Withholding and counting each fairness and unfairness creates a less generous and more stingy family environment.

Of course you don’t want to compromise yourself and give over too much, but keeping on the lookout for when you can give just a bit more, can help the wellbeing of everyone involved.

12. Talk with your children.

Parents who worry about the potentially negative influence that their ex will have on their children do well by talking more with their kids.

If you are worried about what your ex might say to your child, it helps to have a good, open line of communication with the child such that you can better understand how they see the world.

It helps if they can talk with you about their confusion or any conflicting messages that they hear from their other parent.

13. Leverage your relationship.

Your child is hard wired to want to connect with you. Parents do well to know that the greatest influence that they have on their child is their relationship with them.

Your children are attached to you, and even if they act as if they want nothing to do with you, they are still wired for your approval and care.

Finding ways to leverage the inherent attachment can help create the sort of life that you’d like for your child.

14. Attract, don’t pursue.

Don’t overly pursue a connection with your child, but instead attract their interest to connect with you. When parents are too eager to chase a child who is distancing, then the child will often distance more.

Building on the inherent attachment that your child has with you, try to find ways to create harmonious and connected moments rather than asking them tons of questions and trying desperately to create closeness.

15. Open up.

Share more with your child about what you love, and what you are passionate about. Children who hear more about what parents care about tend to follow their own passions.

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Think about how many famous athletes or musicians children are also athletes or musicians. Children tend to follow the lead of their role models, and if you share what you love, then might emulate that pursuit themselves.

This can go a long way towards creating a lasting bond that can withstand any tension in a coparenting relationship.

16. Embrace change.

A lot of coparents have hidden regrets or live in the past. They wish their family situation could be different, but don’t know how to make it better.

Embracing change can help us move out of past hurts and regrets and find new ways to create the sort of changes we are looking for.

Perhaps you can find new ways to interact with your ex that might foster new family dynamics.

17. Make room for new possibilities.

A lot of divorced or separated couples that I work with tend to become hopeless about anything new happening in the family dynamic. They see patterns of interaction repeat themselves over and over, and they anticipate it will continue this way forever.

Yet if there is one thing we can count on is that things will eventually change. Making room in your mind for new possibilities can alleviate some of the hopelessness that sometimes comes with difficult coparenting situations.

Yes you are divorced, but It is indeed possible to be good coparents. Communication and patience go hand in hand if you want to raise happy and healthy kids as a divorced parent.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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David Klow

Marriage and Family Therapist and Author

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Published on March 13, 2019

What Makes A Great Place to Work Whilst Pregnant

What Makes A Great Place to Work Whilst Pregnant

Among women who had their first child in the early 1960s, just 44% worked at all during pregnancy. The latest figures show that 66% of mothers who gave birth to their first child between 2006 and 2008 worked during their pregnancy.[1]  It also showed that about eight-in-ten pregnant workers (82%) continued in the workplace until within one month of their first birth which has vastly increased from 35%. It is clear to see form the statical trends that more women are choosing to continue working through, and late into, pregnancy.

Unlike other developed world countries, the USA does not mandate any paid leave for new mothers under federal law,[2] though some individual employers make that accommodation and it is mandated by a handful of individual states. Finding what makes a great workplace whilst pregnant can alleviate stress and provide more stability for you and your family. 

In this article, you will discover exactly the best places to work whilst pregnant.

How Difficult Is It to Work Whilst Pregnant?

Many people strive to find and attain good jobs. For pregnant women, however, that process is often especially challenging. After all, you’ll face extra obstacles that are unique to expectant mothers.

If you are pregnant and need a job, then you’re definitely not alone. You are also not alone if you’re already employed and want to find a new job that is more family-friendly. Changing jobs while pregnant is something that many women consider, especially when they realise that their current positions may not be suitable for pregnancy or offer the benefits or flexibility that they’ll soon need. 

Getting a job while pregnant may not be the easiest thing in the world to do, but it is possible.

You can look for employment opportunities that don’t require too much physical exertion and that won’t cause you much emotional stress. Also, look for jobs that come with the chance to work flexible hours, offer good medical benefits, allow you to take time off as needed, and don’t require a long commute. In addition, it’s obviously wise to consider avoiding jobs that may expose you to toxins, people with communicable illnesses, or other physical hazards.

The Pre-Natal Mamma’s Needs

During pregnancy, there are many mental and physiological changes that a woman will go through. In understanding those changes, it is more clear which types of jobs and workplaces are more suited to you as a pregnant woman. 

During pregnancy, the birth of your baby and the postnatal period, changes in the hormones in your body can have an effect on your emotions during pregnancy. These hormones and the changes can cause joy, fear, surprise and anxiety all of which can be assisted with necessary support and talking. 

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The physiological changes are more varied according to each trimester:

1st Trimester (0-13 weeks)

In the first few weeks following conception, your hormone levels change significantly. Your uterus begins to support the growth of the placenta and the fetus, your body adds to its blood supply to carry oxygen and nutrients to the developing baby, and your heart rate increases.

These changes accompany many of the pregnancy symptoms, such as fatigue, morning sickness, headaches, and constipation. During the first trimester, the risk of miscarriage is significant.

2nd Trimester (13 – 27 weeks)

While the discomforts of early pregnancy should ease off, there are a few new symptoms to get used to. Common complaints include leg cramps and heartburn. You might find yourself growing more of an appetite, and your weight gain will accelerate. 

3rd Trimester (28 weeks – birth)

Travel restrictions take effect during the third trimester. It’s advised that you stay in relatively close proximity to your doctor or midwife in case you go into labor early. The baby is growing bigger and stronger; the kicks can be quite powerful and your abdomen is becoming larger and heavier.

Stretch marks may develop if they haven’t earlier in the pregnancy. Braxton-Hicks contractions- which are usually perceived as painless tightening can be felt. Lower back pain is very common and there may be more pelvic pressure and with this more frequent urination. 

Swollen legs and feet are very common as are increased fatigue, interrupted sleep and a reduced ability to eat a full meal at one sitting.

4th Trimester (Post birth onwards)

Your baby’s fourth trimester starts from the moment she’s born and lasts until she is three months old. The term is used to describe a period of great change and development in your newborn, as she adjusts to her new world outside your womb. There are many adaptations, recovery and rest that you and your baby need through this trimester whether you have a natural or c-section birth.

All of these considerations need to be in mind when looking to find a great workplace whilst pregnant — whether you’re looking to ask for more support from your current workplace, find a new job or enter employment. 

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Next, let’s look at the factors that would define the opposite; somewhere you shouldn’t look to work whilst pregnant.

How to Spot The Worst Workplaces to Work Whilst Pregnant

1. Non-Negotiable Heavy Lifting

Do you have to lift, push, bend, shove, and load materials all day? If you do, many experts believe you should ask for a job reassignment or quit by the 20th week of pregnancy.

2. Toxic Environments

The list of jobs that involve dangerous substances is miles long. Consider the artist who works with paint and solvents all day, the dry cleaner who breathes in cleaning fumes, the agricultural or horticultural worker who works with pesticides, the photographer who uses toxic chemicals to develop pictures, the tollbooth attendant who breathes in car and truck exhaust, or the printer who works with lead substances.

3. Proximity to People with Communicable Illnesses

Working with or exposure to certain bacteria, viruses, or other infectious agents could increase your chances of having a miscarriage, a baby with a birth defect, or other reproductive problems.  Some infections can pass to an unborn baby during pregnancy and cause a miscarriage or birth defect. Infections like seasonal influenza (the flu) and pneumonia can cause more serious illness in pregnant women.

4. Extended Hours of Standing

Cooks, nurses, salesclerks, waiters, police officers, and others, have jobs that keep them on their feet all day. This can be difficult for a pregnant woman, but it might be downright dangerous for her unborn baby. Studies have found that long hours of standing during the last half of pregnancy disrupt the flow of blood.[3]

Key Factors Creating a Great Workplace whilst Pregnant

1. Flexibility

You might feel tired as your body works overtime to support your pregnancy — and resting during the workday can be tough. Having an employer or job that provide care and is understanding to your needs is hugely beneficial.

A compassionate and empathetic employer will understand morning sickness; they will facilitate changes in working hours to accommodate your energy and assist with the smells from the work kitchen. 

They will also enable you to remain flexible to snack as and when you want to – crackers and other bland foods can be lifesavers when you feel nauseated. Nad eating small frequent meals are similarly saving you as your meal quantity decreases.

2. Compassion

More employers are learning that the idea that pregnant women are willing and necessary contributors to the economy and are capable of adding long-term value to their organizations. 

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Employers that follow good practice in maternity can improve the experience of pregnant employees and new mothers and encourage them to return to work following maternity leave.

A good relationship between a pregnant employee and her line manager is essential to the successful reintegration of the employee following maternity leave.

3. Stress Reduced

Stress on the job can sap the energy you need to care for yourself and your baby.

To minimize workplace stress, take control. Make daily to-do lists and prioritise your tasks. Consider what you can delegate to someone else — or eliminate. 

Talk it out. Share frustrations with a supportive co-worker, friend or loved one. 

Practice relaxation techniques, such as breathing slowly or imagining yourself in a calm place. Try a prenatal yoga class, as long as your health care provider says it’s OK.

4. Adaptable

As your pregnancy progresses, everyday activities such as sitting and standing can become uncomfortable. Remember those short, frequent breaks to combat fatigue? Moving around every few hours also can ease muscle tension and help prevent fluid buildup in your legs and feet. 

Using an adjustable chair with good lower back support can make long hours of sitting much easier — especially as your weight and posture change. If your chair isn’t adjustable, use a small pillow or cushion to provide extra support for your back.

Elevate your legs to decrease swelling. If you must stand for long periods of time, put one of your feet up on a footrest, low stool or box. Switch feet every so often and take frequent breaks.

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Wear comfortable shoes with good arch support. Consider wearing support or compression hose, too.

5. Financial Support

Financial strain is one of the leading causes of peri & post natal depression. Employers can support employees by offering them benefits beyond the statutory minimum, for example training mechanisms to help them cope with balancing work and family commitments. 

The employer should conduct a performance review with the employee prior to her maternity leave to boost her confidence and encourage her to consider how parenthood and work will fit together.

Key Take-Aways

If you’re working while you’re pregnant, you need to know your rights to antenatal care, maternity leave and benefits. 

If you have any worries about your health while at work, talk to your doctor, midwife or occupational health nurse. You can also talk to your employer, union representative, or someone in the personnel department (HR) where you work. 

Once you tell your employer that you’re pregnant, they should do a risk assessment with you to see if your job poses any risks to you or your baby. If there are any risks, they have to make reasonable adjustments to remove them. This can include changing your working hours. 

If you work with chemicals, lead or X-rays, or in a job with a lot of lifting, it may be illegal for you to continue to work. In this case, your employer must offer you alternative work on the same terms and conditions as your original job. If there’s no safe alternative, your employer should suspend you on full pay (give you paid leave) for as long as necessary to avoid the risk.

Look for employment opportunities that don’t require too much physical exertion and that won’t cause you much emotional stress. Also, look for jobs that come with the chance to work flexible hours, offer good medical benefits, allow you to take time off as needed, and don’t require a long commute. 

Your current employer may need to offer you different types of work or a change to your working hours. If your employer can’t get rid of the risks (for example by finding other suitable work without any reduction in pay for you), they should offer you suspension on full pay.

Featured photo credit: Alicia Petresc via unsplash.com

Reference

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