When parents divorce, they sometimes forget that their children didn’t also get a divorce. They still have their two-parent family, even if that family occupies two households instead of one.

Sometimes, though, it seems too hard to figure out how to communicate with someone you are no longer in a relationship with. But because you have children together, you can’t just go your separate ways, hoping you do not run into each other. Perhaps you or the other parent thought you’d no longer have to have the same, old arguments about parenting that you used to have, that it would all be behind you.

What you have perhaps learned by now is that you continue to have the same disagreements about the children, only from your separate homes. You still have to figure out your parenting timeshare as well as how the children will go back and forth between your houses, get to school and to their activities, get their homework done, make medical and educational decisions, and other considerations. And you still have to learn how to interact with the other parent to help make all these things happen, and to be civil and cordial with each other while in the children’s presence.

Perhaps instead of getting easier, it has not only gotten harder, it hasn’t changed the problems that weren’t addressed when you were together. What to do now?

Working on your co-parenting relationship may be more than you may have thought you were emotionally prepared to do. One of you may have moved out of the family home, emotions may be running high due to the pain and disappointment of the end of the relationship, and perhaps not knowing what’s next—or worse, continually anticipating that what’s next is something you won’t like—is wearing on you. You may find that every decision holds the possibility of anger and anxiety. It may be that all you want to do is stay as far away from the other parent as possible, if only to collect yourself and find a way to try again.

If this is your experience, it is often helpful to work with a co-parenting therapist to help turn down the heat.

In co-parenting therapy, with the help of a third, neutral party, you will have the opportunity to:

  1. Talk about the issues that you find most difficult to discuss with your ex.
  2. Make decisions regarding those things which cannot be different for a child living in two households (the school your child attends, medical decisions, team sports, etc.).
  3. Identify the decisions you can make separately for each of your households (bed times, food, houses of worship, etc.).
  4. Address your communication styles and the interactions you have with each other as a result of the different ways you have of expressing yourselves.
  5. Understand the reactions you each have to the other. The most effective tool you have to change the level of conflict in your relationship is to work on how you react to the other parent.

Co-parenting therapy can help you learn how to communicate more effectively, with the goal that you will not need the help of a third party to co-parent your children and you will be able to do so without conflict. Research has shown that when parents are able to put their differences aside and work to establish a post-divorce family that is not characterized by conflict, most children are able to adapt well to the changes in the family structure.

Co-parenting therapy is appropriate regardless of whether you still live in the same house and are preparing to live separately, have recently set up separate households, want to make adjustments to the parenting plan you’ve had in place for some time, or just need help communicating better about your child’s needs. Having a relationship with a co-parenting therapist can help you create an amicable relationship with your ex and protect your children from unnecessary conflict.