How to Ace Your Parent-Teacher Conference


It’s homework time – and not just for kids. Around this time, parents have homework to do too.

Relax…you won’t need to write an essay on “What we did on our summer vacation,” but you will need to bone up for the first parent-teacher conferences of the school year, likely coming up in October.

Typically held twice a year, parent-teacher conferences are a rare structured look into your kid’s experience once school is underway. Their primary objective to share your impressions of your kid’s school experience with their teachers and get basic answers to the question of “How’s Susie doing?”

Even more important, these conferences are a prime opportunity to find out what course corrections – I like to call them pivots – might help your children excel.

Even though many schools post test results and cumulative grades online, sitting down face-to-face with teachers rounds out the narrative of your child’s academic performance to include their effort, timeliness, competence – even a teacher’s reflection on their friendships and other social concerns. For example:

·      Do they need a tutor in a particular subject?

·      Is a change in their seat assignment in order to curb behavior problems?

·      Would they benefit from more challenging homework?

·      Are there any extra-curricular activities or studies teachers recommend?

This may seem like a lot to talk about in the mere 5-15 minutes you’ll have with each teacher, but it’s long enough to cover the basics and uncover if a longer in-person meeting is necessary.

Now let’s get back to your homework!

While it’s easier to put the onus for successful parent-teacher conferences on teachers, your children will be much better served if you put in a bit of preparation. Mostly this involves being observant and attentive to your kids’ educational experiences. Generally, your youngest kids may be perfectly delighted with their fledging foray into academia and not have anything negative or troublesome to report, but if they seem reticent about school but can’t articulate why, ask their teacher for their insights into what might be brewing.

Be sure to engage middle-school and teens in active dialogue in advance of the conferences, particularly probing for what subjects and/or teachers they love (or not!), where they might be struggling academically, as well as getting a sense of what other school issues might be “up” for them. Then be sure to follow up with your children about what you plan to discuss with their teachers – and let them know you’ll give them a full report after the fact.

Even if your kids are hitting all the marks at school, use the conference to talk about how best to leverage your kids learning styles to foster their individual passions – and grow as individuals and school leaders.

Beyond these practical and tactical considerations, a few words about parent-teacher conference etiquette is in order. 

DO: Be on time. This is respectful to the teacher and other parents too. If you know there are substantial issues to address, be mindful that it may be necessary to schedule an additional time outside of the regularly scheduled conference. 

DO: Align with your spouse or partner. If possible, attend together and stay focused on your child’s progress and needs.

DO: Express your gratitude. Remember – teachers are people, too. They work long hours and are generally devoted to the children in their classrooms. So thank them, and make sure they know you appreciate their efforts.

DO: Adopt an attitudinal approach of collaboration with your teacher- and school relationships. Of course you’re going to be a fierce advocate for your kids, but it’s possible to do that and be a partner with teachers. You’re not in the ring, so keep the gloves off.

DO: Demonstrate your engagement in your kids education by arriving prepared and taking notes during the conference and following up on anything you’re asked to do or talk about with your kids. Bring along the report card so you can refer to it as necessary.

DO: If there is any significant familial or other issue that may be impacting your child’s school performance, be sure to tell the teacher. If you prefer the teacher not mention to the child that they know, be sure to say so.

ONE BIG DON’T:  For the best outcome for all concerned, make sure you curb any tendency to blame your kid’s failing – academic or behavioral – on their teachers. Avoid an adversarial approach; recognize that your child is an active participant in his/her education and they are responsible for their success.

If you’re unhappy with something in particular that was said or implied during the parent-teacher conference, don’t try to address it that evening in the limited time allocated. Simply send an email the following day thanking them for their time and ask them for an additional meeting to discuss a few unresolved issues. Only if and when you are unsatisfied with a teacher’s response should you reach out to a division or department head or other administrator.

This primer covers enough to help you ace your upcoming parent teacher conferences. If you have thornier or more sensitive issues and would like some feedback, please contact me at

Intentional Parenting


In my first-ever ELI Talk presented live at Repair the World in Detroit, MI on June 19th, I shared my journey from the initial days of motherhood – completely overwhelmed, frustrated and exhausted – to my current life as the successful parent of three young adult children.

While my blog generally presents a secular perspective on parenting with intention, I wanted to offer my practical experience and professional grounding in intentional parenting through the lens of Judaism. In this short video I explain how mastering the “pivot” is one of the most essential skills any parent can possess.

5 Reasons Why I'm With HER (Julie Lythcott-Haims, that is)


Seconds into Julie Lythcott-Haims’ talk from the stage a few years ago, I knew I was hearing from a kindred spirit. An advocate of raising our children to become competent adults, this former Stanford University Dean of Freshmen, attorney, author – and mother of two teenagers – reflected on her surprise at just how ill-prepared she had found the young people on Stanford’s campus to be.

She’s written a New York Times Bestseller on the topic and accompanying TedTalk garnered 3.2 million views. I admire her greatly – and agree with her wholeheartedly. In fact, her thesis, that we hamper our children’s development and their futures when we hover over them, smoothing every bump in the road lest they trip and have to figure out how to right themselves, is the way I raised my children, as well as the foundation of my parent-coaching practice.

What kids need most from parents is unconditional love, that’s a given. Parents also have the fundamental, irrefutable and powerful job of educating, protecting and nurturing our children.

But also tops on the list of parental to-dos is this: We must get out of our children’s way and let them fall, fail and falter so they can figure out how to succeed.

Believe me, I understand the urge to step in. It’s much easier and more efficient if we tie our toddler's shoe rather than wait the interminable 20 minutes for her to do it herself. Yet being bigger, faster and stronger than our kids doesn’t give us the right to rob them of the most important lessons that failure and hard times can teach. 

If we do everything for them, we’ll have reared a generation sadly and seriously ill equipped to take on the essential jobs of running our countries and saving our planet.

Let’s set our kids up for true success in life by adhering to these 5 ways to raise competent, compassionate and resilient adults.

1.    Let them do it themselves (even if it’s not perfect).  It doesn’t matter if that’s tying their own shoelaces when they’re toddlers or negotiating what they consider to be an unfair grade with a teacher, mastering a skill gives children the confidence to face the next challenge that comes their way. If you’ve assigned them a task and they do it – but not up to your adult            standards – let it be. By redoing their work you undermine their sense of pride in accomplishing the task.

2.    Let them fight their own fights. Intentional parents let their children resolve their conflicts – or learn valuable lesson by trying. Of course, if there is a risk of grave harm you need to intervene. But generally, getting in the middle sends the message you don’t believe your kids are capable of navigating and negotiating a conflict on their own. A wound like that may never fully heal.

3.    Let them fail. Watching a child fail is probably one of the most excruciating things a parent can do. But it’s also a priceless opportunity for our kids. I remember when my eldest, then a sophomore in college, fell behind and was poised for academic probation. He was a bit frantic when he realized the predicament he was in, but having been allowed to fail multiple times during the course of his young life, he knew what he had to do. And he did it.   

4.    Let them struggle with things that are hard.  In an animated video about helicopter parents shared by The Atlantic magazine, Lythcott-Haims notes most parents are enthusiastic about letting their kids struggle with learning how to walk, but generally start stepping in soon thereafter. Don’t. They eventually learned how to walk, didn’t they? I promise they’ll learn how to do most of the other stuff they need to survive without constant parental interference masquerading as loving support. 

5.    Let it begin today!  Even if you failed to do the previous 4 things when your kids were 2 or 4 or 10, begin today. Better to realize you’ve handicapped your child and pivot than to keep on making the same mistake! It won’t be an easy transition for either you or the kids, but with practice everyone will get the hang of it. Best yet, your children will bear the fruits of their labor, even if they’re cranky about the extra effort in the short run.


By the way, if you haven’t read Lythcott-Haim’s book, get yourself to your library, neighborhood bookstore or favorite online vendor. It’s one of the best parenting books around.  And for more reading on the subject, check out my HuffPo piece from 2014

Four Issues that Call for Co-Parenting 2.0

So here you are. You’ve been divorced for several years…the kids are growing up and doing well…and all’s well with co-parenting 1.0, right?

My guess is that like most divorced couples, your co-parenting arrangement underwent a bit of tweaking once you started living the realities of the plan you made in the mediator’s or attorney’s office. A co-parenting arrangement that worked for a couple of toddlers doesn’t always meet the demands and desires of school-aged kids with busier lives filled with extra-curricular activities. Then there are those unexpected life events that require an on-the-spot adjustment, like grandparents or good friends who announce a surprise visit on a weekend you don’t have the kids.

In healthy relationships post-divorce, co-parents willingly extend flexibility and consideration, especially when the “ask” is in the best interests of the kids. In fact, that’s the most important tenet of any co-parenting relationship: the mutual and agreed-upon desire to keep the kids front-and-center whenever there is a decision or alteration to be made.

Coparenting 2.0 issues generally fall into four categories:

1. Custodial

2. Medical

3. Financial

4. Relational.

Let’s take them one by one.

Custodial.  Healthy co-parents know that in terms of attachment, in terms of feeling safe, in terms of learning to trust…it is in the best interest of children to have a healthy relationship with both parents. After all, a child’s relationship with his or her parents is the fulcrum on which many of their adult decisions will rest. So when it comes to changes to who-stays-with-whom-and-when, every parent should advocate for an arrangement that considers the long-term effect on kids if they don’t have substantive time with both parents.

Problems can arise when co-parents get confused between what’s right for them versus what’s right for the kids. Even if your desire is to have the kids 100% of the time and your ex is fine with it – reconsider. Obviously parents need to assess their feelings about their spouse’s competencies as a parent. But simply because one parent was working while the other cared for the kids is not reason enough to insist on primary or sole custody. The “working” parent, with some coaching and trial-and-error, will likely turn out to be an effective parent.

If you and your co-parent are struggling in your relationship, I know it can be challenging to respond fairly when the unexpected arises. And yet I’m going to be emphatic here: Do not let your personal ill feelings or a punitive mindset affect your decision-making.

Let’s say your ex wants to take the kids on a fun camping trip, but the only weekend he could reserve a campsite is for one of your weekends. If you’re still smarting from a real or perceived slight, you may think refusing to accommodate is punishing your co-parent. But it’ll be the kids who bear the brunt of the punishment – not your ex. The question is not, “Why should I go out of my way for him?” but rather, “Is what my ex is proposing a good experience for my kids?” Deal with your feelings with your spouse – by all means — but don’t let them get in the way of making the right choice in the end.

Medical.  When it comes to the health and safety of our children, most co-parents get on the same page stat in an emergency or with a life-threatening illness; there’s just too much at stake to quibble. There are a couple of outlier situations that can arise, however.

The first has to do with parental decisions regarding important but non-emergency medical interventions such as physical or occupational therapy, vaccines, or other elective interventions. These issues can be challenging even for married couples whose values may not align, but are often exacerbated post separation.

The second issue is when one co-parent’s religious or other beliefs radically change post agreement, resulting in them no longer believing in treating even grave illnesses and/or preferring an untraditional (or unproven) approach. Since the ethics and repercussions of such decision can be far-reaching, co-parents may need to work with a mediator or even the courts to come to a sound decision.


Financial.  There are two reasons that can make finances a source of friction for co-parents:

1.    Money is a fraught topic for many – married or not

2.    Kids get more expensive every year

Co-parents generally agree on the big buckets in their initial agreement: spousal support; living expenses; gift buying; college funds. As kids age, however, they often uncover unique talents, expensive interests or develop special needs, all of which begs the question: Who pays for what?

Then there are issues like these:

·      Your ex gets a new job or a big bonus payout, is it appropriate that he or she pick up more of the extraneous childrearing expenses?

·      Your parent dies and leaves you a larger-than-anticipated estate. Do you owe any of that to your ex? Or should it impact your contributions to expenses?

These are a few of the financial reconsiderations scenarios that may affect your co-parenting agreement as time passes. If you can hash them out with your ex over a cup of coffee, that’s great. If need be, though, a conversation with a mediator or therapist can be helpful – particularly if, as with all things co-parenting, you keep the best interests of your children top-of-mind.


When your kids become teens, sometimes even co-parenting 22.0 won’t help. At 16, kids can vote with their feet (or request an Uber). In truth, parents need to honor teens’ desires to make decisions about where they want to stay. If they’re responding to a packed high school schedule and simply can’t afford the time to schlep and readjust at parent #2’s house, give them some slack. But if they’re being intentionally injurious to the other parent and can’t or won’t work with you to figure out a plan to deal with their feelings, then it’s likely time for a therapeutic intervention of some sort.

Be mindful of your own projection, too. One client believed she was “supporting her kids feelings” when they didn't want to go to their father’s for the agreed-upon weekends. To her credit, she eventually realized that it was her own rejection of her ex that was motivating her.

The other huge relational variant is when one or both co-parents begin dating. A 2.0 agreement setting some basic parameters you can both agree on can be really helpful in avoiding surprises. For example:

·      If kids are younger than X, no partner visits or overnights when the children are present

·      No introducing partners to the kids until 6 months into relationship

·      “My house, my rules” rules

Sometimes non-dating co-parents feel badly when their exes start to see other people. Here more than ever, whenever you’re faced with a decision be sure to ask yourself “Who’s interest am I really thinking about…mine or the kids?”

While it can be hard to believe in the first few years post-divorce, I know many people who have become friendly with their exes once again – and who even like and appreciate their ex’s new partner (myself included).

If you keep a few basic truths in mind when in discussions with your co-parent, I promise it will be best for everyone:

·      Treat your co-parent with respect – just as you want to be treated

·      Even if you can’t stand your ex, remember that you both love your children and want the best outcome for them

·      Know your kids are watching you and developing their values about relationships by your actions

·      Don’t trash your co-parent in front of the kids. I guarantee you’ll never regret not telling your kids how you suffered in the marriage

Being a co-parent can certainly be more logistically complicated, but when you are mindful and intentional about your decisions and actions, everyone fares better. 

Sibling Rivalry Doesn't Have To Poison Your Home


Sibling relationships are incredibly complex, and there’s no predicting or controlling the bonds that yours will eventually have…or have not. However, an inviolable role of mindful parenting is ensuring that home is a safe place for every person in the family. Do that, and there is a very good chance your kids will find much to appreciate in one another. Perhaps not immediately, but surely in time!

But first, let’s agree on a few truths (the good, bad and ugly) about siblings:

·      Siblings can be natural allies

·      They’re also sometimes rivals

·      The dynamic between offspring is affected by things outside everyone’s control (e.g., birth order and temperament)

·      Siblings don’t need to be best friends but they must respectfully co-exist

·      Siblings can gain great skills (how to manage parents; how to navigate the world) simply by watching one another

·      It’s normal for siblings to argue -- about toys, boys and even nothing at all

And here’s the final “truth.”

·      Raising multiple kids under one roof (or in the case of divorce, under two) can be a significant challenge for parents

Fortunately, the solution is something I believe is vital for healthy families. And that is creating, articulating and honoring the core values about the type of family dynamic and home environment you intend to foster.

      When we had our first child, my now co-parent and I were in lockstep about our parenting values and aspirations for family life. As they grew up, our kids came to know exactly what those values and aspirations were. Not simply because we articulated them frequently, but because we held everyone in the family to them. Here are some key values that can impact sibling ties.

Family is sacred.  From the start, we considered our family unit, our family space and the time we spent together as sacred. We ensured our home was a safe place for every member, and encourage our kids to try things out at the dining room table without consequence or ridicule (unlike in the school cafeteria). The sacredness applied even when (especially when) we disagreed or were angry.

Family members are kind and respectful.  Our kids knew there would be zero tolerance for bullying, physical abuse or excessive tension between them. They knew the expectation was that they be kind and respectful to one another – and to us. Full stop.

Hitting is not an option.  We drew an extremely hard line at anything physical. We did not spank our children and they were not to hit one another. Naturally we intervened when they were toddlers and hitting and biting one another was to be expected developmentally, but relatively early on they learned that getting physical would not be tolerated.

Get along or go it alone. It’s easy for parents to fall into the trap of blaming an older child for infractions or always making the youngest the victim. Not to mention, it’s easy to spot the actions of the retaliator…but miss the jabbing of the instigator. We decided early on we weren’t going to police our children or preside as judge and jury over their sibling shenanigans. When our kids seemed unable or unwilling to manage their disagreements (decibel level is a great cue), we simply sent them to their respective (or separate) rooms, instructing them that they were welcome back into the family space as soon as they felt they could be kind and respectful and work out their differences. It’s also important to remind everyone in the family that playing (and living) together is a 2-, 3- or 8-way street as the case may be, and that everyone contributes to the tone of the home.

Kids are allowed a sacred cow or two.  Teaching siblings to share is great. But sharing everything? Not necessary. Let you daughter have her treasured truck or you son claim “his” side of the room as off-limits. Of course siblings can’t call “dibs” on everything, but it’s appropriate for them to claim some things as theirs alone.

If it isn’t working, PIVOTWhile most parenting values don’t change much over time, certainly how we enforce them may. So if you’re reading this and thinking, “My value is that our home is sacred, but my kids are always at each other’s throats!” – all is not lost!

The best antidote for losing one’s way is simply to stop long enough to figure out what the problem is, re-articulate your values around it and then back that up with action – even if you’ve let bad behavior go on for far too long. For example, “Daddy and I are tired of you three arguing at dinner all the time. Starting today, if anyone is mean or dismissive to anyone else in the family, you’ll be excused.” Then follow through.

A helpful way to think about raising siblings is to be conscious about what it is you want for your children when you’re dead and gone. Like most parents, you probably want your progeny to love one another…to count on each other…to help each other when it counts. Live your values and it will come to pass. (Mostly) guaranteed.


How to 'Pivot' when Changing Parenting Rules

Wouldn’t it be amazing if the job of parenting were static, predictable and one-size-fit-all? All you would have to do is establish a single set of rules for your kids… for every age, stage, birth order and circumstance…then sit back and pull the appropriate levers when necessary and watch them grow into kind, resourceful and resilient adults.

      Tween misbehaving? Slide Tab A into Slot B. Toddler won’t stop throwing her peas? Rule X, please. Teen driver doesn’t see the point of seat belts? Apply Rule D and forget about it.

       Sound utterly appealing? Yes. Based in reality? Not even close.

       Every parent comes to know there is no blueprint for raising children, no rulebook with proven answers. It’s a learn-by-doing job of promoting and supporting the development (emotional, physical, intellectual and social) of unique human beings. And because they are a) constantly changing and b) so different from one another, parenting defies the predictability of, say, the laws of gravity. It’s got much more in common with whack-a-mole. Just when you think you’ve got things under control, up pop a couple of situations you hadn’t encountered before.

       So what now?

       In a word, pivot. Change the rule to meet the particular challenge of each child as the need arises. That’s the job.

Let’s face it, all of us make errors of judgment along the way. But just like you wouldn’t keep driving if you exited the highway headed North when you needed to go South, you can pivot and change your parenting rules – even midstream – to fit your kid’s needs.

Yet many parents worry about changing the rules.

I hear examples like these every time I speak about a parent’s right (and responsibility) to change course along the way:

       “I gave my 6th grader a smartphone before I read the research on the impact of too much screen time on young brains. How can I take it back?”

       “My middle child was always such a good student, so after starting high school I said he could continue to have friends over during the week. I didn’t anticipate how much his homework would suffer. When I mentioned revisiting that decision he was furious so I dropped it.”

       “The rule for my older daughter was no pierced ears until 16, but I think my younger daughter is responsible enough to handle it. But that seems so unfair to her older sister, who had to wait.”  

       Rather than being a sign of weak parenting skills as some may fear, changing course when needed is a sign of strength. It means you’re aware enough to see that your present rule about “whatever” isn’t aligned with the outcomes you want for your kids. Other parents fear being “inconsistent” or worse, undermining their authority by changing their minds. Here’s the paradox: there’s no better expression of authority than making a change due to changing circumstances or the realization that you didn’t do enough due diligence before making a decision. Pivoting can be an object lesson for your kids, actually. It helps them see that they can end a friendship if it becomes unhealthy or change their college major when they uncover their true passion.

Mindful and intentional parents stay alert for those times when the rules need to be tweaked. For example:

·    You realize a rule you’ve set doesn’t fully align with your parenting values

·    You come to believe that the rules you set for your older kids were too strict / not strict enough.  

·    One or more of your kids have unique challenges reaching certain development milestones

“But that’s not fair!” is sure to be voiced whenever a set rule (especially one your kids approve of!) is altered. That’s why how you communicate the change is key to its success.

I coach parents to be upfront with their children about what isn’t working or isn’t optimal – for them or the family as a whole. Be sure to explain why you’re changing course (see bullets above) and talk to them about the new rule. Invite your kids to offer feedback or suggest a possible solution although as the parent, you’re the final arbiter. Then agree to a time period to try the new approach, after which you’ll regroup and reevaluate to see how things are working. If you still believe the situation needs another tweak, make it.

Pivoting is a great opportunity to model how humans learn to adapt when we realize something isn’t working. In a world of constant change, what better gift to give your kids?

How to Support – and Set Limits - for Toddlers, Tweens and Teens Post-Divorce


In a previous post I outlined the top four reasons co-parents need to be extra vigilant post-divorce. To recap… co-parents ought to do whatever it takes to make the period immediately post-divorce as secure and protective an experience for our children as we can.


As vulnerable, anxious and upended as your children’s lives may be, divorce isn’t an excuse for bad behavior.

I can practically hear you thinking, “Really?”


Many newly divorced feel guilty that the marriage didn’t work – and even guiltier that kids have to pay part of the price. But tough times…even as tough as divorce…don’t give your kids the right to process their feelings and emotions in ways that are disrespectful to you or their siblings, break house rules, or, well, break anything.

Here’s a news flash: Your divorce won’t be the last emotionally negative experience your kid has to endure. Bad things happen in life all the time. As parents, our job is to help our children develop tools that allow them to navigate difficult times. In fact, research shows that not only do most children of divorce have healthy adulthoods, it’s how you parent post-divorce that makes the biggest difference in how your children recover…not the divorce itself.

In this post, I wanted to outline the key behaviors your Toddlers, Tweens and Teens may exhibit post-divorce, as well as several ways to support them and, ultimately, your family, through the process. 



The most resilient of the three age groups, toddlers can easily adapt to the new normal because they don’t have mindful reference points for pre- and post-divorce. What they may notice is that Daddy or Mommy isn’t around as much, and they may experience separation anxiety regarding the more-absent parent.


There are two basic signposts your toddler is feeling stressed: Shifts in sleeping and eating patterns, which you can address in your customary ways, and tantrums. Given their undeveloped prefrontal cortex, anxious or stressed toddlers often simply lose it.


What to do?  Offer your teed-off tots their “angry bear” or “angry pillow” so they have a tangible object to be mad at. And make it clear that hitting one’s brother or biting sister isn’t an option.  Be especially mindful that transitions can be challenging for toddlers, so consider that when planning the custody schedule.



School-aged children tend to be the ones who are the most surprised, scared, and worried when you tell them you’re divorcing. They don’t know what to expect, and even if they did, they have little agency to affect it.


Tweens are also more likely to be highly vigilant about your feelings – and act accordingly. If they feel Mom is vulnerable, they won’t say they’re scared for fear it could make her more upset. Walking on eggshells becomes their go-to method for navigating what feels like shaky territory. You may also notice them isolating from both family and friends, as well as some changes in their sleep, eating, and energy habits.


What to do?  Validate their feelings. Give voice to their concerns. Make sure they know you’re aware they’re having a difficult time. Invite them to share their feelings. Encourage them to visit friends and engage in favored activities.


It’s important to keep the conversation going, because you never know what you’ll learn. For example, when I divorced 8 years ago, talking to my school-aged kids revealed they were particularly worried about their Dad, who had moved out of our family home. I reassured them it wasn’t a betrayal of me to check on their father.


Cautionary note: Don’t let your issues be their concern. Take the opportunity to share your emotional experience with measured, age-appropriate honesty. It’s possible to tell your kids you’re sad without revealing the level of devastation you may be feeling. For example, I remember those first few weekends they were gone I missed them terribly, but I didn’t tell them that.  I dealt with it with my friends and my therapist– and then happily listened to them recount their exploits when they came home Sunday evening.



Your high-schoolers will likely be the least surprised of all. In fact, your announcement may just validate their felt-sense that all was not well with your marriage. But often their “aha” moment is accompanied by anger at feeling deceived.


More emotional outbursts and rebelliousness than “normal” – as well as a dip in academic performance - are telltale signs your teen is feeling the stress of the family rupture. And don’t be surprised if your friends-focused teen becomes even more so. They may even find a special comfort in their BFs – and their BFs’ homes.


What to do?  It’s crucial teens know that you and your co-parent are there for them. Assure them they can speak their mind, as well as have a little distance from you if needed, as long as they do so in respectful and agreed-upon ways. All kids, but especially teens, need to know they have a right to feel badly, but not to act badly. If they weren’t allowed to swear at you before your divorce (and let’s hope not!), they don’t get a pass to do so now.


BTW, post-divorce is a time when all kids should have the opportunity to talk to a therapist if they need to – or if you think they need to. In the latter case, even just a few sessions offer a safe and private place for kids to share their truth with an objective adult.


My kid seems to be doing fine. Should I be looking for signs of trouble?

Each child comes to terms with divorce differently. Some will be immediately sad, while others may need more time to process the information. Denial, sometimes coupled by the fantasy that Mom and Dad will reunite, is also a perfectly normal response.


Another cautionary note: A muted initial response doesn’t mean that things will stay calm or good. There are a lot of transitional moments post-divorce, and feelings and reactions can be delayed.


Naturally, no one would advocate divorce as a life-skills “teaching moment.” But in my personal experience and with my coaching clients, when co-parents stay alert, present and in good communication with their kids and one another, divorce can be a situation from which the entire family recovers.


Four Reasons Why Co-Parenting Post Divorce Matters More Than Ever


Like many of you, I’m a co-parent…collaborating with my ex-husband to raise our three kids, who were under the age of 13 when we first separated. Just like parenting with a live-in spouse or partner, co-parenting has its joys – and its challenges. In my view, though, co-parents have an extra responsibility to their children given the family rupture. Here are four reasons why effective co-parenting matters more than ever.


Kids are acutely vulnerable post-divorce, so their security and attachment needs must be paramount.  Let’s face it: Separation and divorce mark an unprecedented transition for children. The ground underneath their feet has shifted irrevocably, and it’s impossible for them to know that things will work out – no matter how much you and your co-parent reassure them. Your child’s reasoning goes something like this: “If Mommy and Daddy can stop loving one another, they can stop loving me.”


Kids can’t wait until the dust settles. Immediately post divorce, especially the first six months, everyone is raw. I’ve had parents describe feeling as if they’re drowning – and utterly incapable of keeping anyone else afloat.

But keeping your kids above water is non-negotiable, because they are more vulnerable than ever as they try to figure out the new normal for their lives – now that we’ve changed the rules.

I’m not saying your needs don’t matter. I believe parental self-care matters big-time. I often tell clients that you cannot take care of your children at the expense of yourself.   Divorce is an emotionally wrenching experience, and you may need to turn to therapists, family and friends for support more than usual. On the other hand, you cannot and must not take care of yourself at the expense of your children. You are entitled to your feelings – but they cannot be your children’s problem, nor can they supercede your childrens’ needs.

As co-parents, we have to learn how to deal with our personal crisis on our own time – and find ways to manage our feelings and emotions when we’re parenting so we can be there for our kids.


You only get one chance to do this right.  Here’s the Truth with a capital T: When it comes to the transition immediately post-separation or divorce, you don’t get a second chance to provide much-needed stability for your kids.

Their lives have been upended – physically, emotionally, familially. Your kids don’t necessarily believe what you say – they believe what you do and what they experience. So be particularly vigilant about the following:

·      Try not to add anything or anyone new to your lives at this juncture; there’s plenty “new” to attend to

·      Do not use your kids as a go-between for communicating with your co-parent

·      Do not argue or fight with your co-parent in front of the kids – or disparage her or him in any way

·      Establish clear expectations and limits your kids can depend on, no matter what (more on this in a moment)

No one is expecting perfection. You and your co-parent will make mistakes, but if you make effective co-parenting your priority, you and your kids will recover from them.


Kids need clear expectations and limits – immediately post-divorce more than ever.  Kids can thrive in tough environments, but during times of strife they need even more consistency, external structure and limits. Here are some priorities in this regard:

·      Agree on the “red rules” that stem from the core values you share - rules both co-parents follow at both households

·      Make the big decisions – e.g., medical issues, religious celebrations and school concerns -- together as co-parents

·      Be consistent in how inappropriate behavior is addressed. Letting behavior slide that pre-divorce would not have been tolerated is detrimental to your kids’ stability

·      Eliminate worry and anxiety for your kids by establishing and sticking to a routine for household and “stuff” transfers


Parenting can be hard for everyone on the best of days. When co-parents stay aware and alert to their children’s needs post-divorce – ensuring they are well-adjusted and feel safe – life is easier and more stable for everyone.


Newly separated or divorced? Please feel free to ask me a parenting question