From my perspective, the only goals of the parenting consultant process are to reduce conflict and increase your effectiveness as separate parents. This is what your children need and deserve; this is what is in their best interests.
A PC’s job is to help you resolve your parenting disputes, establish clear boundaries and create guidelines which will allow you to parent with less conflict and (ideally) without the need for third party intervention.
A PC focuses on what is in the best interests of your children which is not always the same as what you may want for your children or believe is best for your children. The goal of this process is NOT to ensure parental fairness, correct past wrongs or otherwise vindicate either parent.
At first, having a PC may seem like a welcome cure for a difficult and conflicted parenting relationship. This opinion often wanes as you realize that your PC is not a miracle worker and after you spend hundreds and sometime thousands of dollars on a process that was supposed to help but mostly just falls short of your expectations and feels unfair. At about the time you throw your hands up in disgust and defeat, your PC begins hoping for success. Why? Because your PC knows that most conflicted parents need to hit rock bottom before they are able hear and accept the difficult recommendations that will allow them to create a low-conflict and effective separate parenting relationship.
It is important for each of you to understand that effectiveness as separate parents does not require 100% agreement, mutual understanding, respect, forgiveness or even frequent communication. It requires being emotionally disengaged, business-like communication, clear boundaries, reasonable (and often times lowered) expectations and adherence to established protocols.
On the surface, these goals may seem relatively easy to achieve and most of my clients actually agree that they “should” be able to achieve these objectives. Unfortunately, the “should” mostly applies to the other parent (who is mostly to blame, can’t be trusted and has malicious intentions). Realistically, even if one parent contributes more than an equal share of damaging behaviors – in order to be successful, both parents will need to change how they respond to each other’s comments and behaviors as well as make changes in their own communication and behavior.
When you are ready, a Parenting Consultant can help provide a framework for success – you and your parenting partner need to do all the work to achieve your goals and get your children out of the middle of your conflict. Your children will be forever grateful when you succeed!
Amber is a divorce and parenting specialist in private practice in Burnsville, MN. She is also a divorced parent and step-parent of three children, ages 16-12.
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