New Year, new parenting in 2021 - Family Law - Shulman Law Firm in Toronto

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New Year, New Parenting. Three Resolutions for a Challenging Co-Parent

With this year ending, many people’s mind goes to New Year resolutions. Of those, perhaps the most common are about managing money and losing weight. However, have you considered making some changes to how you manage co – parenting?

For good or bad, once a co-parenting relationship has been established, that is most often what continues. Even if still court involved, what was (anger and hostility), tends to live on.

Want to make some changes to improve a co-parenting relationship?

Consider these tips and resolutions:

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If confronted by ongoing and unfounded accusations to which you constantly argue, consider no longer engaging and no longer offering defensive statements, which seem to only serve to continue the distressing dialogue. This is about setting a boundary. While you may not get the other to stop this form of harassment, you can choose to disengage. This is done without fanfare and recognizing that to do so will in the short run be met with an increase of barrages to re-engage you. The resolution would be about managing your own triggers, to remain disengaged.


Many parents take on the job of maintaining the parent-child relationship on behalf of the co-parent. To this end they bend over backwards to accommodate multiple changes to the schedule and will at times chase the other parent to have time with the kids. The challenge here is to recognize that your co-parent’s relationship with the kids is their responsibility, not yours. As such, you can lead a life better organized by the existing schedule and having alternate plans in place for those inevitable disappointments when that other parent fails to follow through with their parenting time. The resolution here is about you running your life, letting your co-parent run theirs and allowing the kids to develop a realistic view of the other parent as a result, as opposed to a fantasy view that over time, erodes.


Those bad feelings you have been carrying about that co-parent? Those feelings can be toxic and like mold, can seep into other aspects of your life – even your own parenting. Your ex may forever be a less than likeable parent; however, it may be time to let go the anger, accept what is and simply find new strategies to cope with what comes your way. When we come to terms with life as what is, versus what we would hope for, our realistic perspective can lead us to better management of the situation in the moment. The resolution here can be about considering counseling with a co-parent consultant or coach. This would not be about talking about your feelings, but rather learning strategies to manage a challenging situation more productively. This is about you developing more sophisticated management skills of oneself as well as the other.

Welcome to the New Year. If you were waiting for the co-parent to finally make some changes, forget it. Look to yourself and what you may do differently to manage at a higher level.

For that, the above three resolutions.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW is a Canadian Social Worker in private practice. He is recognized from his 65 episodes of the hit show Newlywed/Nearly Dead, to over 650 columns as the parenting expert of a major metropolitan newspaper, to more than 350 media appearances, to his book, Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout Canada and the US and helps family peacemakers grow their practice.

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