Insights

The Dark Side of Co-Parenting

Written by Kelly Johnson on 12/7/2015

Inspired by Star Wars, I am. Those who know me realize that I am incapable of encapsulating my excitement for Episode VII, which hits our theaters this month. If you approach me with a spoiler or a theory, be prepared because I will scream, I will plug my ears, and I will run in the other direction. As I count down the days (let’s face it—hours) before I finally get to see Star Wars Episode VII with my family, it occurred to me that some people may not find this movie appropriate for children. Insert gasp here. Could this lead to a disagreement between separated or divorced couples regarding the decision-making for their younglings? I have a bad feeling about this.

It is a given that many parents disagree with each other about major decisions in their children’s lives—where to attend school or church, when to introduce the kids to the new boyfriend/girlfriend, how to split time at the holidays. But, what about the general, everyday life decisions? What about Star Wars? What if one parent thinks that Star Wars is inappropriate for their children and refuses to allow visitation that weekend, knowing full well that the other parent already purchased the highly sought-after tickets, weeks in advance, so that he/she could experience the iconic Episode with his/her children? What kind of “stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder” would purchase tickets to a PG-13 movie without consulting the other parent?

No one said that co-parenting is easy. No one said that co-parents will, should, or have to agree on decision-making for their children—especially those decisions that are not in your current parenting arrangement, court order, or visitation schedule. Of course, I am not talking about dangerous, threatening, or egregious actions or decisions of one parent that could put the children in peril. Unless otherwise agreed or court ordered, those general, everyday decisions are typically left up to the parent who has physical custodial time with the children. The law does not specifically allow one parent to control those general parenting decisions when the other parent is exercising time with the children.

In order to avoid constant disturbance in the Force, the best, and perhaps the most difficult, thing for parents to do is just let the other parent actually be a parent. Trust the co-parent to make those general, everyday decisions for your children that are in their best interest. Certainly, do not risk violating a court order by holding back visitation due to a PG-13 movie date. When you drop off your children to the co-parent, take a deep breath, kiss them, and tell them to have a great time. All too easy? Of course, not. However, if you learn to control your fears and trust the co-parent’s decisions, you will free yourself and your children from the destruction of anger and the power of the Dark Side.