Learning the Long Game

Parenting is hard. Co-parenting is harder. Either way, it’s not about absolutes and is definitely not black and white. It’s about a series of choices along a sometimes lonely road. Do I stop here and rest or do I act swiftly? Which action benefits my child in the present versus what impacts her future? How important is the relationship with my child versus his need for independence? These and numerous other questions plague us throughout parenthood. Add a contentious co-parent to the mix, and the road seems too long to traverse. The best approach is to live joyfully in the present, while making parenting choices for the long game. Here’s food for thought:

>>Do I experience numerous failures at co-parenting, hoping to be the cooperative parents our kids surely need, or do I settle on parallel parenting to save my own sanity? In reality, there is no research that says kids with cooperative co-parents fair better in the long run than those with parallel parents. Both styles achieve the same goal of minimizing conflict, which seems to be what really benefits adult kids of divorce.

>>Do I fight to keep my 15-year-old from living with his other parent because I predict it will be a disaster for him academically and behaviorally? Or do I give my teen the opportunity to experience life with the other parent, even if it means he will have to catch up later? In my 20 years of working with kids of divorce, I’ve counseled numerous teens who thought they wanted one thing, but ended up getting something else. The ones who eventually matured and made good decisions as adults were those who were allowed to try and fail under the support and watchful eye of a parent who unconditionally loved that child – even if it was a non-custodial parent. Giving up parenting time with teens is not giving up parenting. It can be an important step in building a long-term relationship, if negotiated in love.

These are tough dilemmas wrought with numerous complicated variables. I could think of a hundred more. But the theme running through all of them is “what builds a good adult?” It’s not about the here and now. Embrace and enjoy that. It’s about today’s choices that build a lasting independence that will help your child through any circumstance in the future.

For more advice on tough dilemmas, listen at www.CPDilemmas.com, or wherever you get your podcasts