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Dr. D’Arienzo’s Parenting Partnership Coparenting Model

Dr. D’Arienzo created his career around building, maintaining, and even deconstructing relationships in a healthy and skillful manner. Much of Dr. D’Arienzo’s work is involved in the divorce world, including custody evaluations or social investigations, evaluating other’s custody evaluations, testifying in court, parenting coordination, mediation, and divorce therapy. This work is full of intense conflict, as many people seeking these services have challenging personality characteristics or find themselves in relationships with those that do. The Gottman Method, a method that works well with marital therapy, seeks to improve relationships by rebuilding friendship, improving conflict resolution, and finding common purpose. Believe it or not, Dr. D’Arienzo has discovered divorced couples who are friends, who respect each other, and who do not attempt to control or change the other are able to co-parent well. In working with divorced couples and helping them co-parent, he recommends that these individuals take similar steps adopting the Gottman Method and applying it to high conflict couples which he has termed Parenting Partnership Co-Parenting Model or the A$$hole Free Approach to Co-Parenting. These steps are both successive and interdependent, meaning they build upon the each other linearly, straightforward; and each factor affects the other, and some factors may be stronger than others. For this to be effective, you want to successfully engage at each level together. 

Step 1: Commitment to Co-parent

Each side must accept they are divorced, believe they are better off not being married with the other, and are eager to put their own needs aside to ensure their children’s best interests and needs are met. It is okay at this level to not be in complete agreement about what these best interests are, but there must be a genuine willingness and motivated desire to work with another person to co-parent the children.  

Step 2: Maintain Open Communication

Each party must be willing to openly inform and involve the other parent in regards to their children’s events, activities, and potential decisions. The parties must also be willing to talk about their own needs, ideals, and wants. These must be shared, perceived or actual threat. Both parties must be open and willing to hear and must discuss what the other wants for the children.

Step 3: Foster Mutual Respect and Fondness

The parents must ensure the children believe that each parent (and step-parent) respect the other parent, words and actions. Offer praise the other parent in the child’s view. Ensure that they know you appreciate one another despite being separated or divorced.

Step 4: Joining Forces

In good times and tough times, Co-parents must seek out and give full support to the other parent in managing the children. Yes, it is necessary for both parents to be responsive for this to work. If one parent reaches out for assistance, the other must be there for support. Ideally both parents should be present for the children’s celebrations and during difficult times. This factor has the potential to be mismanaged, where one parent is too reliant on the other parent for assistance with the children. It is necessary that both parents do their part as a unified front and team.

Step 5: Conflict Resolution

If there’s an identifiable desire to co-parent, to have open communication, shared respect and fondness, and sense of joined forces, then it will be much easier to resolve disagreements. It is vitally important for parents to maintain control of their own sense of anxiety, need to be in control, and need to change the other person (refer to Step 1: Commitment to Co-Parent). When managed effectively, each parent will see each other in a positive light and give the other the benefit of the doubt. Here, both parents must act like adults, share experiences and wants, consider the ideas of the other, and understand how their past relationship continues to impact their ability to clearly identify and manage their emotions. Remember, you are no longer with this person. Your job is to control yourself and your emotions for the well-being of your child. There’s nothing to resolve about your former relationship and that relationship is over. The new relationship is that of a parenting partnership. It is up to each parent to take initiative to exercise, utilize diaphragmatic breathing, see a psychologist, do yoga or take a walk, receive acupuncture treatment, or do whatever it takes to control your physiology, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Remember this mantra, “Control thyself and not thy former partner”.    

Step 6: Mutual Expectations and Mutual Appreciation of Individuals’ Desired Outcomes of Children

Each parent has a dream for their child. If lucky, both parents want similar things. If not, the parents must ensure and support each other’s dreams so they are illustrated, as the goal is to find balance in those dreams. For example, you may want the child to attend Harvard while the other wants them to find their way and consider taking a gap year after college. Parents may need a third party to assist in mediation and outlining a plan for them. As children move to their teen years, parents can also can participate in outlining their dreams as you will need their commitment to reach them as well. However, regardless of your child’s maturity, they still lack a full understanding for planning for the future. Parents should offer some level of guidance to ensure their children see their potential and is moving on a path towards that realization.  

Step 7:  Mutual Support for Renewed Identity of the Parents

In addition to the parent’s goals and dreams for their children to be facilitated and achieved, each parent must accept and support the new identity of the family, as well as the new identity of each individual parent. For example, expectations of the mother ensuring that the children’s homework is completed, or the father possessing the majority of the financial responsibility for the family may need to be resolved, and then fully embraced. Both parents are free to redefine themselves, but if they are to have a relationship and involvement with the children, the way in which the relationship is defined should also be in the child’s best interests.