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When Parenting Comes Lately

Many divorcing parents are surprised to learn that their spouse, when faced with daily separation from the children, seems to suddenly take interest in mundane parenting tasks like filling prescriptions and attending regular dental checkups. Take, for example, this recent conversation between parents:

Joe: Are you changing the children's dentist? Why didn't you discuss this with me? You are making unilateral decisions without me!

Cindy: Joe, I told you about the appointment so that you could be there if you want to be. I'm not doing anything without you.

Joe: Yeah, but, you're taking them to a new dentist and you didn't include me in the selection of the new dentist.

Cindy: Joe, do you know the name or address of the old dentist?

Joe: That's not the point. I want to be included!

The fact is that Joe did not know the name of the dentist or the hygienist and didn't know where the old office was located. In the past, he had been content with Cindy's choices and had trust that she was handling the issues appropriately. Joe used to trust Cindy, and Cindy used to trust Joe. Now that he and Cindy are going to be separated, Joe realizes he will need to pay better attention to these kinds of details. Joe is trying to step up to the job of parenting.

Cindy can respond in two ways. She can resent his "late to the show" attendance and point fingers at his historical absence, or she can welcome another set of hands to share the load of parenting. She will need to learn to trust Joe all over again, and Joe will need to learn that perhaps Cindy's decisions are not born of a desire to undermine him but come from an old pattern of parenting by default.

Divorce is often a catalyst for change in parenting patterns. In Ohio, and probably nationwide, there is a strong presumption that shared parenting - the parenting that requires parents to at least attempt joint decisions - is better for children in the long run. Studies show that children's experiences with parents are best when they are sufficient in both quantity and quality.

John Zoller and Mary Biacsi, founding members of the Cleveland Academy of Collaborative Professionals, help parents like Cindy and Joe every day. The Collaborative Process can assist parents in discovering common interests and guide them to new solutions and dynamics where the adjustment to things like choosing different providers are not sources of stress, but opportunities for less stress.

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