Former Etiquette: If you think co-parenting is not possible, seek professional help

Q. When I was with my ex, we had a pretty heated discussion. So my question is, if we weren’t respecting when we were together, how do you expect us to be respected now that we’re disbanded? He always speaks badly about me. Co-parenting is almost impossible, so I suggested co-parenting counseling. But we don’t think we can get over it. What is good etiquette?

A. Your entire question is a big red flag that tells us that you have lost sight of what is important. Of course, it sounds like you don’t think you have control over how you behave. The devil didn’t let you do that. You and your ex are adults with brains, and if you wish you can solve the problem without losing it.

This is where angry parents tell me they can’t do it. “The guy makes me so crazy. He pushes every button I have.”

But you can control yourself. Do you swear like a sailor in front of your child? Are you rude to the grocery checkers for no reason? Do you talk to your boss?

Probably not. So the truth is that you can control yourself when it helps you. You know the right thing.

Those who want to get along do so. People who don’t want to get along don’t.

The first thing you have to do is stop making it for you and your ex and make it for your children. (Former etiquette rule # 1 for parents is “put your child first”.) They rely on you for a healthy and safe environment. You are disappointing your children because you told me.

If you are “co-parenting”, it tells me that you have a court order requiring your child to move back and forth between your homes. That means your child has to listen to their parents’ fights and discuss with each other weekly, perhaps daily. They do not have a positive role model for lasting and loving relationships. Their parents are so obsessed with perpetuating their drama that they are left to protect themselves for themselves.

Take it home so you can really think about it — and share it with your ex.

Studies show that children who have witnessed controversies and battles, as you explain, are actually facing developmental consequences. They will never forget as they grow older. Domestic violence alters their brain development. It’s even more dramatic in toddlers. Infant brains and stress-related systems are particularly vulnerable to environmental stimuli. Exposure to intimate violence (IPV) during infancy interferes with the emotional and cognitive development of the baby.

So, knowing that, do you still think it’s impossible to properly co-parent?

I would like to commend you for suggesting co-parenting counseling. It is a good and honorable thing to look for professional help when you need instructions. Co-parenting counselors will give you tools for better communication so that you can solve problems on your own in the name of your children. You have the power to turn this around. Do it for your child. That’s good etiquette.

Studies show that children who have witnessed their parents claim and fight are facing developmental consequences.

Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Divorce” and the founder of the Bonus Family at

Former Etiquette: If you think co-parenting is not possible, seek professional help

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