Getting started, Need some help, Separation & Divorce

The Transition from Spouses to Co-parents

During and after divorce and separation, adults often struggle with feelings that often interfere with their co-parenting relationship.
(3 min 20 sec read)

Karen Bonnell
Karen is a coach that has over 25 years of experience working with individuals, couples, and families facing transition, loss, stress, and change.

During and after divorce and separation, adults often struggle with feelings — feelings that disrupt, confuse, frustrate — that often interfere with coParenting effectively.

We hope to provide guidance on how to manage feelings and shorten the duration of upset to help you recover your “self” and develop as a strong coParent. Part of what makes this transition so hard is that although spouses divorce or separate, parents don’t. Parents emerge from divorce or separation in a new relationship, which we call “coParents,” and your new job is the business of coParenting with your former spouse.

The opposite of love is indifference — not hate. Hate is the other side of the “love coin” and can be an equally strong energetic connection of the heart to someone who has hurt us, betrayed us, wronged us. Hate and conflict grow out of frustrated love or a fight against the grief over losing something or someone truly important. These losses can include life-long dreams about how life would unfold, our sense of family, financial security, lifestyle, identity, relationships with children/extended family/community, etc.

By acknowledging how hateful feelings and conflict actually connect and involve us with another person, we open the door for more constructive responses — responses that will allow for disengagement, release, and freedom of choice. Recognizing this pattern, pausing, pulling away from the impulse to engage or strike back (no matter how RIGHT you may be!), provides the platform for steps and strategies that promote healthier, more constructive interaction — and a new business of coParenting relationship. is can happen, believe it or not, even as we grieve losses and come to grips with a new reality.

Managing our very human emotions allows us to more fully engage opportunity and innovation over limitation and negativity.
Divorce/separation is a crisis — a crisis of change: change in family, identity, roles, security and dreams for the future. However, even during this crisis, we are called to make important decisions. How we make decisions can be influenced significantly by the way we think and feel.

Like any crisis, divorce/separation unleashes potential for opportunity and innovation. With loss and change come opportunities for rebuilding, strengthening, renewal and re-creation. Divorce/separation may also set into motion a lifetime of limitation and negativity — with a danger of trapping ourselves in bitterness, resentment, angry and rigid thoughts — thoughts that prevent us from growing and giving joy on the other side. We choose which way we go — consciously or unconsciously. And guess what? Your children are going through a crisis as well. They will need your help learning to manage their emotions and by leading the way you can model for your children how to grieve.

The more equipped you are to work with and understand your own emotional experience, the more capable you’ll be at working with and helping your children understand theirs. Humans create meaning together — it’s in relationship that context and meaning emerge. Your children will look to you as parents to make meaning out of what is happening in their family and glean cues to what will happen in the future. Just as if you were on an airplane flight experiencing turbulence, you might look to the flight attendants to see if there was reason to be worried or reassured. You read facial expressions, listen for their words of direction and watch their actions as the plane navigates the bumpy air. Similarly, your children look to the two of you.

That doesn’t mean that you deny or fail to acknowledge there is something sad or difficult facing your family — children don’t want to be alone in their sadness or difficulty with the separation/divorce. But realize that to feel safe, your children also need to witness confidence, hope and resiliency.

Sound like a big job? It is, but you can get there by taking some basic steps to reduce the interactions that trigger big emotions, separate partner-level thoughts and emotions from parenting children, and learn to care and support yourself from the inside out.

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