One of the most valuable outcomes of Collaborative Team Practice for many families is how respectfully the process helps prepare parents for effective co-parenting. Lee Eddison, a very experienced neutral coach in Collaborative Team Practice, aptly describes this as a transition from We (a married couple) to a different kind of We (co-parents).
In Collaborative Team Practice, the expertise to make this transition is available from two mental health professionals on the team, the neutral child specialist and the neutral coach. The neutral child specialist offers a child-inclusive process to assist parents in the creation of a developmentally responsive Parenting Plan. The Parenting Plan lays an important foundation for effective-co-parenting with detailed agreements about decision making; communication; parenting expectations, routines and guidelines; and parenting time. This foundation is considerably strengthened when parents also create a Relationship Plan with their neutral coach.The Relationship Plan is a set of clear and specific agreements about how parents can communicate effectively and resolve potential or actual conflicts in a productive manner once they have completed their divorce or separation and are on their own. The Relationship Plan is not a list of cookie cutter recommendations or generic advice, but is specifically tailored to the unique needs and concerns of each family.
Included in the Relationship Plan are agreements about necessary boundaries to define safe emotional, physical and communication space for co-parenting.The neutral coach helps parents be specific about what words and behaviors from a co-parent would feel respectful and supportive, what could easily trigger negative emotions, and what to do if negative emotions are triggered. The Relationship Plan helps parents anticipate and prepare for a number of sensitive and potentially complicated interpersonal situations that frequently arise after a divorce or break up.Creating a Relationship Plan also provides an opportunity for parents to articulate and build on their own and their co-parent’s strengths.In my experience as a neutral child specialist, parents who invest the time and resources to create a Relationship Plan with their neutral coach have prepared themselves as fully as possible for their lifelong relationship as co-parents. On behalf of their children, what could possibly be more valuable than that?