By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC

Getting divorced and then co-parenting is especially challenging for parents who are coping with addiction issues. Or find themselves co-parenting with an addict. This is even more complicated if one or both parents are not fully dependable, trustworthy or responsible.

6 Challenges That Complicate the Co-Parenting  Experience

Difficulties can be compounded by the many issues all parents face following a divorce. This includes one or both parents …  

1)  Giving the raw emotions resulting from the divorce an active voice in this new stage in their lives.

2)  Bringing previous baggage from the marriage into play. Ongoing conflicts, differing styles of communication, unresolved issues and continual frustrations can hinder negotiating a co-parenting plan.

3)  Vying for the respect and love of the children. It can be tempting to make parenting decisions in ways that win them popularity with the kids.

4)  Letting anger and resentment resulting from the divorce settlement influence levels of cooperation in the months and years ahead.

5)  Disagreeing about major issues that weren’t previously part of the parenting dynamic. This may include: custody, after-school activities, behavior problems, drug use and more.

6)  Conflicting about values and visions for the children as they grow as well as steps for honoring those values.

Finding ways of co-parenting effectively is not a one-time discussion. It takes on-going communication and a commitment to safeguarding the children. 

Consequences & Complications For Co-Parents

The consequences, when it doesn’t work, can be considerable. Your children are likely to exploit any lack of parental agreement. Often, they will pit parents against one another when they can. This can result in major family turmoil fueled by behavior problems that neither parent is prepared to handle.

Addiction problems bring another layer of confusion. The addicted parent may not be granted shared custody and may have limited visitation. I encourage these parents to take advantage of video chats, emails, phone calls and other options that support continual parent-child connection.

Equally important, both parents must keep their promises. Don’t make agreements you can’t live up to. And never show up intoxicated or unprepared to parent, fully focused on your children’s needs.

Divorced parents can parent as a team regardless of how far apart they live. They can agree about behavioral rules, consequences, schedules and other shared intentions. Or they can agree to disagree and not make those differences an area of contention.

It’s when differences move into high conflict that kids can get hurt, caught between battling parental egos. Children often feel guilty and confused in contentious parenting situations. That is rarely healthy within the post-divorce family structure.

Get professional support to guide you if you’re uncomfortable when the kids are with your co-parent. Discuss your options objectively. Sometimes it’s hard to create workable solutions for co-parenting success alone. Seek out the assistance of an expert experienced with addiction and its challenges.

Remember that co-parenting will be a life-long process for the two of you. Why not do it in a way that will garner your children’s respect and appreciation? They will thank you when they are grown adults.

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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach and author of the acclaimed ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide To Preparing Your Children — With Love! To get her free ebook, coaching services, expert interviews, programs, e-courses and other valuable resources on divorce and co-parenting, visit: