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Co-Parenting: Moving Beyond Polarization

Steve Young, Family Therapist, provides insights into how co-parents can move beyond polarization and work together to raise happy and successful children.

We frequently bemoan the polarizations in our culture- Republicans vs. Democrats; vaccinated vs. unvaccinated; us vs. them. Many say we are more divided than ever before. There is little conversation which involves true listening. I’m only waiting for you to finish so I can make my counter-argument. We are not seeking collaboration or compromise, but only to win. The New York Times describes this as “a poisonous cocktail of othering, aversion, and moralization.” As we all know, this has led to an erosion of politeness and even civility in our communities and families.

Coparenting and Moving Beyond Polarization

When a family experiences separation or divorce, there is this same seductiveness to “other” the other parent. Because of hurt, differences, legal wrangling, we can lose sight of what we have in common and focus on our differences. We can look at everything through the lens of an enemy. It is certainly true that the pain of a breakup makes it uncomfortable to be in the presence of the other parent. It is rarely true that the other parent has no redeeming value and that “we disagree about everything".

Parents Often Have the Same Dreams for Their Children

At Kids First, in our ICOPE (Intensive Co-Parenting Education) class we often assign parents an exercise of defining their hopes and dreams for their children. They must individually write five or more areas of these aspirations. As the other parent listens to these being read, they are amazed at how much they have in common. Sometimes there are even tears as they begin to shift from adversaries to a beginning partnership.

Our children are precious to us and parents want the same things- for them to be happy, successful, develop good values, etc. For this to happen we need to work together and avoid the distortion of polarization. Now if we can get the rest of our culture to work together in spite of differences…


Steve Young, LCSW, is a member of the Board of Directors at Kids First and has served as a respected program facilitator here for many years. He is a recently retired child and family therapist who helped found Touchstone Associates over thirty years ago.

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