Marcie Shaoul sees a lot of traumatised parents…
Parenting during divorce is no easy task when your co-parent is the one you are divorcing… Thankfully, more people are realising that this is a key area where people need support, so help is becoming increasingly available for struggling parents. Marcie Shaoul Marcie Shaoul runs The Co-Parent Way and is the UK’s only dedicated Co-Parent Coach.
This means she works with parents on how they can bring up their children together, even though they are no longer in a relationship. She has been co-parenting for over a decade and researching the methodology for nearly as long. We interviewed her for Divorce Club to see what nuggets of wisdom we could steal…
How did you get into Co-Parenting coaching?
Marcie: When my marriage broke down nearly ten years ago it was really tough. A friend of mine sent me a number for her coach. I didn’t even know what a coach was. But I called the number. I had life coaching for the first time in my life. And it changed my life.
I became more sure footed, was able to be more confident in my decisions and have more fun. And I became a stronger person. Basically when my world felt like it was falling down around me, coaching helped me get up, dust myself off, and start again. During the years that followed my career in the diplomatic sector flourished, and I always carried with me the tools I learned through coaching.
When I then retrained as a coach I realised that I could fill the gap of what I didn’t have when I was divorcing, someone to help me navigate the difficulties of shared parenting including finding my inner strength and knowing what my boundaries were. I also use my diplomatic negotiating skills in my work and I hear what is not said. This makes the methodology unique and successful.
Why is there a need for it?
Because it’s really too easy to lose sight of what’s happening for the kids when you’re getting divorced or separating. We can be in emotional turmoil, angry, devastated, frustrated and managing such big emotions makes it harder for us to see where we are needed.
We might be fighting with our ex, using our kids as bargaining collateral, we might be withholding access. All of these things happen not because we want to damage our children, but because we want to get at the person that we no longer want to be with. Unfortunately, it’s always the kids that this impacts on.
And the impact of these actions, even if they are for a relatively short time period, can last a lifetime. They can impact on how your children form their own relationships, how they show up in society, their anger management, their confidence and so much more.
Learning how to parent transactionally and together massively reduces the negative impact and helps your child grow up in a whole and functional way.
Can children of divorce really be OK if the parents navigate it sensibly?
Simply, yes they can absolutely be ok. At The Co-Parent Way, we are realistic and honest with parents. Children with divorced parents will never experience the full bubble of parental safety. But parents who work together to keep their child safe, will see their child held and ok.
Acknowledging to your kids that it’s not easy going from house to house where rules and the relationship system differ goes a long way to making your child feel heard. If your child feels heard and ok to say when things aren’t working or when things are hard, then you are succeeding in your co-parent relationship.
What are some of the common pitfalls of parenting during a divorce?
There are a few things that I see time and time again. Communication with each other is the biggest potential trap to fall into. Communicating by email and text often creates misunderstandings.
We can think someone is being angry when they are being humorous. Problems can escalate so quickly if we perceive someone to be acting in a way that they actually aren’t. Getting your child to choose. Often parents think they are being open and collaborative when they ask a child to choose who they want to go and spend Christmas with this year for example.
But the outcome of this is usually inner turmoil for the child. You see, your children aren’t choosing to divorce you, they want both of you. They can’t and should never be asked to choose.
They love you both. Parents need to be parents, and make fair and strong decisions that means that their children can be children.
Can you really make a difference if only one parent chooses to work with you?
Yes. If you think about it as a triangle. Parent one, Parent two and the Relationship are the three points of that triangle. Imagine that only one parent wants to make a change.
Perhaps they are feeling that they can’t deal with the confrontation, or are unable to hold their boundaries. When I work with that parent, the way they behave changes, and because they are different they interact differently. When they interact differently, the shape of the triangle has to change.
It doesn’t mean that the other parent will suddenly become collaborative, but it does mean that the parent who is doing the work will be able to hold a safer space for the children, be more secure in how they show up, and be able to demonstrate good practice.
Usually I hear from parents that there has been a shift in how the other shows up and that they get a lot closer to working together. It’s not a magic wand. It takes work. And it may be hard work.
Tell us a bit about how your programme works.
I work with one or both parents, face to face or on the phone or Skype. I take each parent through the Co-Parent Way method, and it’s around 7-9 sessions each.
At the beginning (sometimes) and at the end (always) I have both parents in the room or on the same call. Both parents sign off on a co-parent charter on how they approach their parenting. The Co-Parent Way also acknowledges that we are not just parents, that all parts of our life interlink with each other.
So the coaching looks at parents as whole people, their work, their life balance etc whilst showing the impact of all those things on how they show up in their parenting and co-parenting.
The reality of life now is that blended families are more and more common, aren’t they? What are the upsides to getting it working really well?
Messaging and boundaries. So all members of the same family having a message board if you like, which means they are telling the ‘original’ children the same thing in an age appropriate way.
So you don’t get one side bad mouthing the other. The workshop work we do at The Co-Parent Way, means that messaging comes from a place of keeping the original children safe and not one-upmanship on the other family.
Boundaries too, so fewer emails, better systems in place, not turning up unannounced etc, not walking into the home if you’re not invited in. All of these things and so much more help respect the other family and hold the boundaries.
At DC we meet a LOT of people who are having trouble seeing their children because their ex is making it very hard either by being erratic with dates or manipulating the children into refusing to see their ex. What words of advice would you offer the fathers? The mothers?
Unfortunately, this is far too common. And it’s important to say that the parents who are being denied access to their kids will need some tools in their tool belt to be able to deal with this. Coaching is a good way of achieving that.
Advice to the parent who can’t see the kids? Consistency. Keep being present if you can. Send daily messages to your kids if they have a phone, telling them you love them. Not emotionally charged messages, just simple ones. ‘Good night, daddy loves you,’ will eventually reach them.
Advice to the parent withholding the kids? You’re slowly breaking the thing you love most in the world: your children. It’s about perspective, and getting help to see other perspectives will help your kids flourish.
Do you like your job?
It’s not a job, it’s a life’s work. And I’m privileged to work with so many courageous people. To work with Marcie, contact her at The Co-Parent Way.