The Science of Parenting

Custody, Kinship Care, and Co-Parenting | S.12 Ep.4

September 21, 2023 Season 12 Episode 4
The Science of Parenting
Custody, Kinship Care, and Co-Parenting | S.12 Ep.4
Show Notes Transcript

When we share the responsibilities of caring for children with other adults, it comes with opportunities and challenges. Listen in for strategies for resolving conflicts and working together to create a nurturing environment for the kids!

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Mackenzie Johnson:

Welcome to The Science of Parenting podcast where we connect you with research-based information that fits your family. We'll talk about the realities of being a parent and how research can help guide our parenting decisions. I'm Mackenzie Johnson, parent of two littles with their own quirks. And I'm a parenting educator.

Courtney Hammond:

Hi, I'm Courtney. I'm a recovering addict, a mom of two, one 13 and one 2.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And it's Courtney and she's here.

Courtney Hammond:

Yeah, I'm here today.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And it's like an ongoing joke on so many seasons. We're like, why do we always say and we're here, like, people don't know that. But you're here. Well, today, we are going to be talking about custody, kinship care and co-parenting. And we thought it was really important. I mean, like, almost every episode this season, let's preface this conversation, right, let's talk through what we're going to talk about. So in our episode, we're going to talk about the research and reality around, you know, sometimes when we're sharing the role of raising children with a family member, with an ex, with a co-parent and so there's a lot of different situations. Maybe someone has temporary custody of children. And so just working through things like that, and we wanted to really identify that there's a lot of diverse situations and experiences this could happen with, right, Courtney? Yes, but I will say a few that ended up coming to mind for you right out of the gate, or some like common or uncommon ones.

Courtney Hammond:

Yeah. So like uncommon would be, you know, mom has gotten sick and is in the hospital, you know, and needs help, or something drastic, car accident or something left the mom or the parents together incapable of fully caring for the child. The more common ones would be, for me in my case, would be mom's in active addiction, you know, or incarcerated, something hindering us from being fully present, safe, and emotionally and physically supportive, you know, can lead us to having to co-parent and have kinship caregivers and co-parent with not just moms and dads, but grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and whoever else was, you know, that person for that time for that child.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Absolutely. And yeah, you make such a great point of yeah, there's not like one way or one person or one situation. And I did have a list of, you know, yeah, a parent who's incarcerated. There's also co-parenting when there's like a divorce or some kind of separation between parents. There can be, you know, a parent that's working on reunification after being involved with HHS, and they've been working on some of their parenting skills, even after the death, right, the death of a loved one, you know, whether that's one of the parents or a different family member or loved one. And so yeah, a parent in recovery from substance use, or that idea of a significant health event. I even think, you know, when a child in the NICU, that older sibling that sometimes, right, it's grandparents stepping in to help out or friends stepping in to help out. And it's a very informal thing, but it's still sharing the responsibility of caring for a child. Absolutely. And so we wanted to kind of define two terms. Have we done this yet this season, Courtney? I always say I love to start with a definition. But have I actually started with a definition yet this season? I don't know.

Courtney Hammond:

I think it may be, yeah.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Okay, I've been doing it. So two terms we want to make sure we have shared understanding on today. One is co-parenting. And another is kinship care, which is kind of a newer term for some people. It's not as common maybe, but co-parenting according to McHale and Lindahl, and I'm gonna be honest, I specifically chose a definition that aligns with the way I see this. But there are other definitions that define a different way. But McHale and Lindahl define it as shared activities undertaken by adults responsible for the care and upbringing of a child. So it's basically just sharing the responsibility of caring and raising kids. And this is like I said, I chose an intentionally open-ended one, because I tend to see co-parenting this way of like, yeah, co-parenting can be a married couple, right? That you're co-parenting your shared children together. It could be like step families. It could be co-parenting with your ex. It could be co-parenting with your parents who have temporary custody of your kids or co-parenting with the foster parent. I tend to think of co-parenting, yeah, that more than one person is kind of taking on responsibility for caring for this child. But the other definition, there are definitions that are more specific to partners that were in a previous intimate relationship or are currently in an intimate relationship. But I tend to use this word co-parent as like a catch all, but I think of it more inclusive, I guess.

Courtney Hammond:

You know, it for sure is but that's the beauty of it. Everyone's so diverse and so different, it's okay to bring the other voice in to get to be able to connect and make a more robust parenting, yes.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Right? Well in that, it's more people caring for the child. And so how do we keep that positive? And that's really the goal, I guess I kind of didn't say that explicitly. That's kind of what we're talking about, and focusing on today is, how do we make this a positive experience for the child that the child gets the benefit from these situations? So thinking specifically about, you know, co-parenting as this opportunity of shared responsibility for a child, right? Not just like, oh, yeah, we visit grandma and grandpa, or we go visit and hang out with aunt and uncle or even chosen family, right, family and friends. And the co-parenting is specific to like, I'm agreeing to take on the responsibility of helping raise this child. And so in a similar light, I tend to see the term kinship care, which is related to family members caring for a child, I tend to see that under the umbrella of co-parenting, but some people would say it's a separate or different thing. But kinship care, according to a report by the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse, they define it as care where relatives other than a child's parent assume responsibility for parenting the child. And so right, that can be grandparents, that can be an adult sibling, that can be some other relative is caring for the child. And there's different types of this, too, which I thought was interesting. And probably in part, because I've lived like, I don't have lived experience with this, right? And so it didn't occur to me like, oh, yeah, there's a lot of different types of this. And so that was one thing that stood out to me in this report was kinship care doesn't, I knew it wouldn't look one way, but that there were even definitions of categories, I thought was interesting. So they defined three categories of kinship care or three forms of it. One is formal care. So this would basically be like when the child welfare system, like the state, is involved and the child is under the custody of the state. And then they place that child with a family member. You had some good examples of that as we were walking through this, if you want to share one. I'll share the type of kinship care and you share an example.

Courtney Hammond:

Absolutely. So in this example, it'd be like kids removed from mom and dad. Kiddos had to go stay with grandma, grandpa, or said aunt and uncle. The state will now give them permission or give the, you know, grace or however I want to start a guardianship through paper, that would be a formal. So it's the formality of going to court, getting placed specifically with this family member. And that's usually what they try to do first, or they're implementing to do first. They're trying to get kinships more in place to keep families and the kiddos in a more stable, emotional secure place.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah. So rather than like, they're looking for kinship care before they'd go looking for a totally different foster family. Yes. Yeah, that makes sense. Okay, so then the next type is voluntary kinship care. This typically refers to maybe like a child that's involved in the child welfare system, but not directly under state custody. So maybe there has been concern for the child's well being. And so the state is doing some checkups, or maybe a parent who used to be, you know, used to be incarcerated or used to be involved with substances, and they're still kind of making sure that the parents are able to provide a stable home.

Courtney Hammond:

So it would be that preventative piece. So okay, I have a problem. And you'll see this a lot with alcoholics or kids of alcoholics, you know. Hey, my drinking is just getting a little bit out of control. Yes, it's a legal substance, but it's consuming my life. So why don't you just go with said sister or, you know, older adult sister or something, and, you know, voluntarily while I go and take care of myself for a while, or yeah, that's it.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And then a family member, right? That's what the kinship care really means. Kin meaning family, right? So that it's like a family member. Yeah, yeah, next of kin. Yeah, good. Good way to explain it. And then the final one is private kinship, which I really, that would mean the state or the child welfare system is not involved at all. And so I really just took this like, it's almost like informal, private. No party is necessarily formally facilitating it. It's just informal, it's private.

Courtney Hammond:

It would be like a sick parent. So mom has got diagnosed with breast cancer or something very drastic has happened where there was no substances involved or anything like that, just an accident, something life kind of changing. And, you know, my mom's in the hospital getting better or dad's in the hospital getting better. We're gonna let her go ahead and release our children from us until we are able to be back on full supporting grounds. And this is common, it's common. Yeah.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Go ahead. Yeah.

Courtney Hammond:

And it's okay to to have these things happen. You know, we don't have us unless, our kids don't have us unless we have us. So when things like this arise, I know it's not always the most wonderful thing to think about having to, you know, relieve yourself of your parenting duties but at that time, you know, it's okay to admit that and to do so.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And yeah, I think it's important for us to understand and normalize, right? We talked about parents' self-care. And you know, sometimes we talked about in the context of yeah, biggest things can be stressful. But sometimes parents' self-care, you know. I think of, you know, someone that I know that checked themselves in for behavioral health because they were having suicidal ideation. So really, right. And so there was not, the state wasn't involved, right? There wasn't a child welfare system involved. But they're like, I have to go take care of this, I have to go figure this out so that I can continue to care for my kids in the long term.

Courtney Hammond:

So yeah, sorry, my kids. Go ahead.

Mackenzie Johnson:

No, it's okay. But that it was voluntary, like, I asked my sister, I asked somebody. I mean, I tend to use family examples because I'm fortunate that I have family nearby. But a lot of people don't, right? And so you ask your neighbor that also has kids your child's age or the people you have, whoever your people are.

Courtney Hammond:

That's a common thing, that's becoming more of a common thing, you know, and I also work with the department helping families get back to unification. And it's becoming more of a trend, you know. We had to remove this child, unfortunately, let's talk to the neighbors, let's talk to the friends. Are the friends able to care for this child? We don't want to sever relationships bluntly, you know, that is a last resort. So the first resort, we're going to look at the family. We're going to look at family friends, we're going to look at long distance cousins who may have had a relationship with the child first. Yeah, that way to preserve that family's, you know, cultural or beliefs or just the integrity of the family and the child.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Right, and that the child ideally isn't going to a stranger. And sometimes that is the best option of the options. But sometimes it's not. And so there's a lot of research behind that of the value for that child of going with someone they know, as opposed to someone they don't but it's a hard, it's a hard thing. But I thought it was really interesting in this report. And I know this report is not the only thing. But that's just what I happened read. But thinking of kinship care and these different types, and that I think the informal. I'm literally reading a book right now where the mom is fairly unstable. She's using substances, she's in active addiction. And then some of the other things she has going on in this book, literally it's just like a fiction book I happen to be reading. And she drops her daughter off with her aunt, and is like, I'm rolling out for a while, take care of her, alright? There's no official paperwork. And so, you know, it can look a lot of different ways. And so there's not only one way kinship care happens, but we know that it does. And so let's acknowledge that. That's a form of co-parenting, right, that's a form of people caring, taking on the responsibility of caring for kids. And that when more than one person is helping care for kids, there's a relationship there. There's a co-parenting situation that we're trying to figure out. So that's where we're headed. So we have four common challenges that we find with co-parenting or kinship care custody. And so let's look through these four, and then we'll kind of break it down. So the first one being just different values and expectations among caregivers. The second one being communication about children. The third one is handling conflict in a productive way, in particular, the challenge of not putting children in the middle of the conflict between those co-parents or caregivers. And then a fourth one is rebuilding trust between caregivers. So those are some of the common challenges we see in the literature, and just that you hear from people when they're co-parenting. And so let's start with that first one, have different values and expectations among parents or caregivers. So maybe I'll give an example and then if you have one you want to give, yeah, back and forth. Awesome. All right. So my example that I actually wrote down was for differing values. I sometimes see this when it relates to like spirituality or religious practices, right? That maybe one caregiver feels strongly about the child engaging in religious practices. And while the other one would rather not have the child involved or doesn't feel strong about making them be involved. And so again, that's just different values and expectations. That can be a challenge when you're sharing the responsibility of raising a child. Anything that comes to mind for you for different values or expectations?

Courtney Hammond:

Yeah, so I could see the conflict of the expectation of succeeding school or being good in school. I'm not big on like, oh, you got As or Bs you know. I'm more of laid back like hey, you just try your hardest and we'll work on it, you know, progress not perfection. But I see some parents are like As or you're grounded. You know, some of those expectations like that, not everyone is on the same speed. Not every child is 100%. They're not the same. So I think that when it comes to mine, I think of grades or like the expectations of school.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, academic performance is a great example. And that parent, right, we each bring our own way we were raised to the picture, but also the like, well, but they're capable of this. So they should be able to get good, right? There's a lot of reasons for lots of different sides. But yet the way that our values show up in our expectations. Even I think of in our discipline season, we talked about desired behavior and undesired, what other people might call good and bad behavior. We try not to use those terms. But even what you see as an undesirable behavior, even my co-parent, my husband and I, sometimes he is like, I don't want to get after kids. But he doesn't like that one of our kids is doing something that way. And I'm like, I guess I don't think it's a big deal if they do it that way. Right. And so it can be small things, it can be major things. But that's a common challenge when we are kind of negotiating the care we provide for a child. Okay, so the next one is communication. So, this was interesting in the report, and some of the stuff that I read, it was talking about related to the emotional and physical needs of a child, communication about the child. You know, for young kids, like needs this lovey to sleep with, or you know, with a teen, they seemed really down about something, or they've seemed off all week. And so that's what some of it talked about. But then also just the logistics, right? The logistics of if you are sharing, maybe the child is doing weekend visits with one of the caregivers or if they are doing supervised visits with one of the caregivers or figuring out the scheduling, and then the expectations about it when we're doing that. So a few examples, we're managing the schedule, communicating about concerns of the child, and just that it requires a lot of intentional thought by all the parties involved when it comes to communication about the kids. I'm putting you on the spot on all these.

Courtney Hammond:

Hey, I should have wrote them down.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Well, I didn't give you a lot of warning.

Courtney Hammond:

It's okay. I like being put on the spot because I mean, it's genuine. It's a genuine answer. You know what I mean? So I'm big on that. So I think the biggest.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, I'll say communication about kids as you think, I mean, whether from your own personal life or just what comes to mind for you, what are some of the challenges with communicating with a co-parent?

Courtney Hammond:

From my experience, I'll pull from my experience, because that's all I know. I would say me not being in active addiction and Lexi's dad being in active addiction, there's a lot of miscommunications there just because he thinks I can come off a little snobby or a little, you know, goody two shoes now, but I'm not. And me having to trust that he's actually going to take the situation serious like, hey, Lexi is coming down to your house this weekend because this is our agreement, but she's also grounded. Yeah, this is what this looks like in our household, will you please respect it? Or at least follow it? And if you have questions, call me. You know, you are her dad. I'll give you this space. But this is what happened. You know, I haven't run into that problem. But there have been times where I'm like, hey, Lexi lost your phone, you know? Yeah. You know, so I think that would be like my biggest kind of maybe a challenge or example is making sure that one person is taking it serious. Because of the pure intent, the good intentions, you know, like, yeah, this is what happened this week. I have to see it through.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, yes. Well, and that's the other thing, right, like the way each person handles discipline or handles the reaction to difficult situations with our kids, gotta communicate on that. And one of the things we haven't said, actually, I'm really glad I'm thinking of it now because I'd have been really disappointed if we got through this whole episode without thinking about it. But one of the important things in literature when it comes to co-parenting and custody and kinship is finding areas for consistency. Yeah, it doesn't mean that everything needs to be identical between care environments, but that we are able to find forms of consistency for the child so that they don't have to constantly adapt to every single piece between the different care environments or caregivers. So it sounds like, you know, that's what you're striving for. Striving for some consistency and that communication is an important way we do that and it's hard. One of the things I heard you say about, you know, that he thinks I'm coming off a certain way, right, even the communication style. Yeah, style, the way we tend to communicate can be a challenge with a co-parent, particularly when there is a history and there is with any co-parent. There's always some kind of history, whether it's positive or negative.

Courtney Hammond:

You know, I think me and her dad have a really great relationship, regardless of the situations we're both in or were in or have been in. Yeah. You know, he was my friend before this, and we can continue to be friends. And I think that's what ultimately it kind of came down to was, I'm like, hey, I don't hate you. You gave me the best part of my life, you know, and I thank you for that. So let's just make this work for her.

Mackenzie Johnson:

All right. So the third one is handling conflict is a challenge when we're co-parenting, caring for a child, sharing the responsibility of caring for a child. And again, in particular, thinking about when there is conflict, that we're not putting the child in the middle of it. That is one very consistent, right, that's actually for many people, that's what comes to mind when we think of divorce or co-parenting or separation, is the conflict. And that people don't put the kid in the middle. Luckily, I feel like that's getting more common, knowledge that we shouldn't do that. But just in case that's not something we've heard, we don't want the child in the middle of a co-parenting relationship. We don't want them to have to relay the messages from one parent to the other. We don't want to speak poorly of our co-parent or other caregiver to the child, right, because that person is someone that they care about, too. And so give them really confusing feelings, when they feel like they have to choose a side or, you know, rectifying maybe the bad thing that they've heard about their parents or that caregiver with the good that they know of them is really confusing for our kid. So we don't want to put kids in the middle. But one of the examples when we're talking about custody, is yeah, just that idea of, I guess, I already just gave the whole example that I had written down, but that's speaking poorly of that co-parent. And I think we tend to think specifically an example of a divorce situation or a separation of parents, right, that if it was previously an intimate relationship, and then it ended poorly, or something. But this can happen in kinship too, right? That especially if it wasn't voluntary, right? If your parents or your sibling now have custody of your children, or temporary custody or whatever that might be, it makes sense that there would be anger or difficult feelings on both sides, right, that it gets really complicated. And so how do we even, like if it was my sibling or my parent or grandparents, whoever might be that, how do I manage that? How do we find a way to provide consistency and a positive relationship can be tricky. Are there certain conflicts besides the communication things that come to mind for you?

Courtney Hammond:

Oh, for sure. So for a long time, trust was the biggest conflict in my experience. I was co-parenting with my grandma and grandpa and his mom and dad. And because of my behaviors and my actions, there was no trust. So even when I had stopped using and I was gaining some more trust, his mom and dad, rightfully so, were very, very hesitant to talk to me at pickup. I mean, it had been 10 years since I'd seen them. And every time they see me, when they did, I was not in a good place. So I think, I don't even know how that's a thing but trust was a huge conflict for us, because I wanted them to trust me so so bad. I just wanted them to see like, I do love Lexi. I love her and I want, you know, but rightfully so, they didn't. So that was kind of a conflict.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah. Well, that's actually like the fourth one, the fourth tidbit that I had was look at you just walking us right into the next one. But it makes sense that there's conflict around that too, right? Like these are not mutually exclusive. They overlap and run into each other. And so you have this idea of rebuilding trust. And yeah, if you were involved in the justice system, or substance use or HHS was involved, like child welfare system, that yeah, there may have been choices that dissolve trust. So like a few examples, actually, I read these interviews. So this wasn't my lived experience, but people sharing really vulnerably about their own experience, some within who had been in active addiction with substance use, and then people also who had survived domestic violence. And so some of the examples were like, one family shared their story about, you know, when I was in active addiction, I left my young kids home unattended, right, to go find the substance that my brain was addicted to. And so now the other parent is worried about, even though that person is maybe in recovery now, that their co-parent is like, no, you left them home alone. You can't have unsupervised visits. Right? And so rebuilding that trust when that bridge has kind of been burned was one that came up a lot. And then or even co-parents who may have treated each other poorly during a contentious divorce or separation, now like, well, do you have the good intention for the kids? You were really mean to me. Or you cheated on me, are you what, however, something like that could go. It doesn't always go that way. But that rebuilding that trust in that situation again, makes it hard to be on the same page for raising kids. Okay, so thinking about these common challenges that we often experience when it comes to co-parenting and sharing custody and kinship care, there is research luckily, right? Like this whole podcast, the whole thing is supposed to be research and reality. And we hope that's what we're giving you. And so today, we wanted to look at some trustworthy resources. What does research tell us about co-parenting? What are some best practices? What are things that help us get to the positive outcomes for our kids? Right? That's the goal. And so some of our national colleagues from Utah State Extension offer the following suggestions for positive co-parenting. They actually on their webpage had this citation of, supportive co-parenting includes respect, forgiveness about the past, and compromise. For the child receiving the same message from all caregivers benefits their wellbeing and increases their chances of handling that difficult situation well. And I just thought that was like a really nice summarizing, what does it come down to? That's like in two sentences, our kids benefit when we can show mutual respect, forgiveness and compromise, to their benefit, right, when we can focus on them.

Courtney Hammond:

And then pinpointed sentence is a statement, right? Like, it's really setting co-parenting is very simple when you have these in place. Yes. And when you learn the forgiveness, when you learn to be able to compromise, give and take a little bit, you know, and acknowledge that, hey, we're different. And that's okay. But this is what I can do. And this is what we can do to, you know, you can bring in. It's a lot, it's a lot to learn, and it's a lot to practice. But when practice comes into play with these things, it's really all just about letting go and just putting the best interests of your children ahead of everything else, you know. You got to put back the past. You got to put back the arguments. There's a back door and take it, trash, take it out.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, so I thought I liked this as a really concise, I mean, easier said than done, right, to put all that stuff behind us. And this is really what kids need is the conciseness of respect, forgetting about the past, compromise to benefit our kids. Yeah, that was great. They did offer some more specific things that go right in line with it. And so one of them was doing what's in the best interest of the child as you're making decisions. And I feel like thinking about it in that specific context was helpful for me that, when do I need to think about the best interest of the child? I can't just, I mean, yes, constantly, probably, but also really specifically. As I'm working, talking on the phone with my co-parent or caregiver, that, okay, we're making a decision. I need to think about the best interest of my child. I liked that grounding of thinking about it that way. I also thought, well, I didn't think this, they wrote this, they said respecting the other parent's right to participate in the parenting and caregiving practices.

Courtney Hammond:

Bingo. Bingo. And I was telling Mackenzie before we started recording, that I have a huge, huge two life experiences that make me really stand behind this. We all have not been great parents before. It happens. But people change and people deserve to be involved with their kids' life. I grew up without a dad. That's a huge missing piece. And then now my son lost his dad, so he'll never get the chance. So I feel like you have to respect their right to participate. That is half that human being. Yes, they deserve and are allowed to know that parent and get their own opinion.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I think this is, right, there's all this muddiness around to the benefit of our child. And so my dad was also not a part of my life, right? I was raised by a single mom. And so there were time periods where my dad was invited to be involved. And it ended up honestly doing more harm than good. Yeah, right. And then ultimately, he and my mom, like, he kind of bowed out. And so it was never a necessarily like a gatekeeping of you can't see her, as much as it was like a if you want to see her, you have to show up when you say you're gonna show up. Yes, you need to be kind when you're here, right. There were boundaries to protect me as a child and I really appreciate that. You know, when I look back, I actually feel like I have pretty minimal negative impact. Sometimes I tell people, yeah, I have a single mom. People assume it was this really traumatic thing, and actually I'm kind of like, no, it's cool. I'm fine. But in part because of the protection my mom did offer and so honoring that parent's right to participate while it's to the benefit of the child. And so even when you're talking earlier, we talked about like, okay, yes, maybe they can offer humor and playfulness. And that comes in the form of supervised visits, or it comes in the form of, you know, it can look different ways, but that they are that parents' child, to the benefit of the child.

Courtney Hammond:

Yeah, I didn't meet my real dad until I was 18. And it was all for the protection of me, making sure it

Mackenzie Johnson:

And that's the thing is it's dynamic, and was all for the protection of me and making sure I was safe. He was in active addiction, but now he's got 16 years clean. And we it's not one size fits all. And so figuring out, yes, respect have an amazing relationship. Not only do we have the addict aspect of it, where we can have those humorous times and those the other parents' right to participate in the parenting crazy stories and relate with each other on a different level. But now we have that daughter and father bond, that, you know, practices, right? It's balancing that alongside to the benefit of I've been longing for my whole life. And now I'm just like, you know what, I'm glad I waited. Because this man that is the child. And so, you know, I think I tend to think of this standing in front of me is 100. I would have never thought of him the same, you know? So yes. I mean, that's just how it is. more as not gatekeeping unnecessarily, you know. Not saying, well, he made me mad, and so you're not gonna go visit, right. Right, that's what is discouraging, as opposed to, I think like protecting your child if there is harm being done by their co-parent or caregiver.

Courtney Hammond:

There's times where Lexi doesn't go, and that's at the discretion of her grandma and grandpa, you know. Hey, you know, it's just kind of a bad night. I'm like perfect, you know, but I'm also very huge communication. I have a huge communication in place with Lexi so she doesn't get the wrong idea. And there's a very huge, now a very beautiful, healthy communication between me and his parents. And, you know, sometimes it's just not a good time and that's okay. That's going to damage her opinion of him. And that's not my job to throw her into. Yes, yes.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Well, and I even think of parents who are incarcerated, you know, and particularly, we see that a lot with fathers that are incarcerated. But mothers too But it's okay if you are a gatekeeper. I mean, just keep that even if their relationship is, we talk on the phone sometimes and that's what they can offer right now for parenting. Or even think there's couples where the parents, like one parent lives at a distance from the other and from their children. Right. And so their right to be involved in parenting the child, but again, to the benefit of the child. And so that's what I think this one is really getting at more of the not gatekeeping unnecessarily, and yeah, honoring that right. this podcast completely normalized on parenting styles, you know. It's okay to protect your children and it's okay to set those boundaries really firm. If yes, got good intentions behind it. Right, when there's harm being done, right. That's harm reduction. Ideally, they have a positive relationship with all the caregivers involved, right? And if it stops being positive, right, if it's harmful, if it's these things, it's not okay. It's okay if you're like, you're forced to make that decision. Yeah. You know your kids and your family best, right? We're talking in the generic examples of the literature. And I actually actively say this, and sometimes people are surprised of like, it's alright to ignore our advice sometimes because we can't know every single circumstance. And so we do think in general, right, the literature tells us these are generally good practices. And there are times when they do conflict in ways we couldn't think of. So another one is being agreeing on some basic rules for raising children as a positive practice for co-parenting. And so you know, figuring out what those shared values are, and also identifying the ones that are different like, okay, you feel this way about that, and I feel some other way. Let's come up with a plan for how we're going to navigate that with our kids. So agreeing on some of those basic rules and expectations, you know, often that relates to discipline, right? What is on the table, what's off the table, there can be a common one. Another tip they offer, they offered five of them, so this is number four, letting go of feelings of anger and resentment. Right, we talked about that a little bit. But that is a really powerful thing for the benefit of our kids, when we can process that outside of the context of their relationship with their other caregiver. And then another, this one's a great all around parenting practice, but that parenting in a warm loving manner. That all caregivers are working toward offering positive, caring and positive parenting for the child. So just a few kind of basic tips. And then this one, it's like half strategy because I thought it was really practical, like half strategy, but also another really important positive co-parenting tip. And this one's actually from Oklahoma State Extension. And they have a really extensive parenting, co-parenting program that they offer. They suggest that caregivers and co-parents prioritize their positive and productive communication, so that's the tip. But the strategy is scheduled regular times and methods of communication so that you can deal with the issues not around the kids. And you anticipate, right, we're preventing, we're anticipating potential problems. So like, okay, we talk every Monday afternoon, or we talk every Sunday evening after the kids are in bed, or while the kids watch a show, whatever, that you've identified, like a regular, we're gonna communicate at these points. And they actually talk specifically about not having those co-parenting conversations when you're transferring, right. So if a child is going back and forth between caregivers, don't have the conversations about co-parenting or values or discipline during those quote, unquote, transfers, that it would be talking about the needs of the child, right, communicate. Like so and so didn't get a nap today, or they still seem really upset about this thing that happened, or they haven't eaten lunch yet. Communicate those emotional and physical needs but that we're not trying to make co-parenting decisions in front of the kids.

Courtney Hammond:

journal, it's called a pickup journal. So like, dad's coming to get him for an unsupervised visit. This is what she ate today. This is what her mood is today. Tread carefully on this, you know, she got sunburned last weekend so make sure you. You know, just like little tasks for, you know, if you can't verbally communicate, get a journal. I mean, there's so many families who are successfully co-parenting through a journal. Yes, and that's okay.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I love that and that they can prioritize like, these are the emotional and physical needs of our child that we need to communicate about. And maybe I'm not past the anger and resentment yet, right? I'm not in a place where I can positively verbally communicate with you. This allows us to the benefit of our child to communicate.

Courtney Hammond:

It's a really, it was a really nice, it was a brilliant idea.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, I love that. And that it's like a really clear option on the table of like, oh, okay, talking on the phone isn't. Here's another way we can communicate. And again, it's not in front of the kids. Nope.

Courtney Hammond:

Nope. And it's one of those informal or, you know, not direct conversations, but it's just enough to say, hey, please acknowledge this. This is what's going to interest her. It's very kid based strategy.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I love that. I love that. Okay, so we talked through a lot of different, you know, kind of best practices here, but really thinking about the best interests of the child. You fed them macaroni for supper. What is that? I hate And I think, yeah, going back to our quote, right at the top of this was just supportive co-parenting includes respect, forgiveness about the past, and compromise to the benefit of the kids. So I think that's really great. I do have another strategy that I added in here, in addition to, I thought the scheduling regular times. Now, I'm like, no, it doesn't have to be regular times as much as like, we have a plan. Right? The journal isn't a regular time, but it's a plan for communication. I think that's a good way to think about it. But another strategy in thinking about sharing, sharing the caring, caring is sharing, sharing the care of a child, sharing the responsibilities, I'll get there, responsibilities of caring for a child. Another important strategy we thought was just okay, you're like, yeah, handle conflict productively, and it's like, cool, how do I do that? So I thought that was a valuable strategy, right? Even like I said, sometimes my husband and I, who are in a positive, intimate relationship, disagree about co-parenting and so we need to have strategies. So anywhere on the spectrum of your co-parenting or caregiving relationship with another adult, there's going to be some conflict. So some ways that we can make a conflict productive or avoid unnecessary conflict is to use clear and nondefensive communication. So that sounds like something we call, I statements, which, if you're a regular listener, you've maybe heard us talk about before. But saying maybe what you need or what frustrates you, or, like, I need to know that she'll be picked up on time, or I need to know or I feel frustrated about X, right. And so you're focusing, it's not accusatory language which just opens up the conversation so that it can be productive, right? The goal shouldn't be to make the other person feel bad, right? We're thinking about the child. The goal should be ideally to get the benefit of the child. So if the problem is the parent not picking up on time or the caregiver not picking up on time, you can use an I statement to communicate that, like, I that. Like, what do you mean? I mean, I get criticized a lot on need her to be picked up on time. Right. And that opens a conversation a different way. A few other things are listening patiently, right, allowing the other person to share their communication. Working on it, we're getting there, right? We're a work in progress. And then respecting the other person's opinion is an important part, right? It kind of goes back to respecting their right to be a part of the parenting relationship. So respecting their opinion on parenting. Staying calm. And then this one I think, I'm just gonna say it, I have opinions about this. I think this is important. But avoiding criticism of our co-parent. That does not mean we never provide feedback or offer concerns, but that it's not coming in the form of you're bad at this or I hate when you x, right? It's not name-calling. my food because I'm not a cooker. You know, I'm not a chef. I'm just Courtney over here. You know, I'm a single mom. I lead a very busy life. And one of the biggest criticisms I get from people, especially my family, is that you don't cook them home cooked meals? I was like, I do my best. I was like, we have good meals. Sometimes macaroni is macaroni and that's okay. That's all they wanted. Can I tell you how funny it is? We're literally having macaroni for supper tonight. My daughter has feelings about whatever the meal is we're having. And so I told her this morning, I was like, heads up. Tonight is mac. This is like one of my favorite meals was mac and cheese, hotdogs, and peas. She does not like peas. And so I was like, I'm letting you know, this is what's for supper. It's literally I'm like, I told her we are having mac and cheese. And I'm changing my mind. So I don't want you to feel bad about mac and cheese.

Courtney Hammond:

I put tuna in it. Or cereal. Why can't we have cereal for supper? Sometimes I really like and this went back to our good enough

Mackenzie Johnson:

Right, there's protein there. parenting. Yeah, like being able to be present with whatever we have to do. Sometimes my day is just really overwhelming. And I don't need the criticism of, this is just that. Absolutely. Their bellies are full. My job is done today. Mm hmm. And this is good enough. Yeah, this is good enough. They're fed, right. Their physical need is met. Right? Yeah. Yeah. So I think, I mean, that's a great example of the criticism and what it leaves in the relationship, right, in that relationship between caregivers. You know, you're talking about feeling like, that's what I need right now. Like, you know, and so that we can have a more positive relationship if we can find ways to communicate with those I statements, instead of that defensive or critical language. Awesome. Well, this brings us to our Stop. Breathe. Talk. space, where our producer, Mackenzie DeJong comes in, asks us an off the cuff question, which I already asked, Courtney. No, she's getting double duty today. That's true.

Mackenzie DeJong:

So that was so much awesome information, a lot of things that some of us maybe never have thought of, some things that a lot of people that are like, yeah, that's it right there. My question is, so imagine someone comes in to sit down at your desk and, or maybe Courtney, one of your parent partners that you work with, comes in and just says, hey, I'm having a heck of a time with this co-parenting relationship. I don't know who that might be. But it's just really sour, things are not going well. Where do I start to turn things around? What is one thing that you, one piece of advice you would give to someone who came to you and said, where do I even start?

Courtney Hammond:

You first, Mackenzie.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I mean, I'm gonna repeat an answer from earlier.

Mackenzie DeJong:

Fine, that's fine.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah. And that's just like, you start with your kid. You start by thinking, and it can be difficult critical self-reflection of what's my role in that? Right? But thinking about what's the benefit of my child and literally, I mean, yeah, going back to this idea of a journal, and a pro and con list. But focusing on those pros of whether this is right kinship, like my grandparent who I share custody with or whoever this person is, these are the things they offer my child, whether or not that's things I can't or things I don't or things I also do but they do too. Finding the positive things that your child gets from that relationship with the other caregivers, I think is a really good place to start to remember, it's about the kid. It's about my child or children. And so whether it's you feeling sour, or the other person feeling sour, I think it's kind of like practicing gratitude. And literally practicing the gratitude of being grateful your child gets whatever that is from them, I think is a really good starting place to help move yourself forward. And again, with that value in mind of, to the benefit of your child.

Mackenzie DeJong:

So right here, that common ground is kind, to finding that common ground. Even if it's not like, you haven't gotten to the point where you can communicate with one another so for you to find the common ground with them. Yes. And have a way. That makes sense. Yeah.

Courtney Hammond:

So I'm super blunt and honest and some people don't like it, but I'm gonna say, hey, it's not about you. It's about them. Them as in like, the child and parent that you're not involved in, having to let loose the reins a little bit and not being a gatekeeper, not being able to dictate that relationship. And I would say, remember back when you started the situation? What led you to have this child? Find the beauty in that. Find the beauty of the friendship, though it might not be there, might not be easy, you might not ever want it. But you take yourself back to however long ago it was and see why you were even hanging out. And I've said this to people and people are like, you know, and I'm like, well, honestly, it's not about you. It's about them. They get that time. The child at least deserves to know and form their own opinion about whoever. And it's not your job to dictate that relationship unless it is causing absolute harm and harm as in like abuse, sexual abuse. Yeah, yes. You can't protect your child from everything. But you have to trust that that dad or that mom or the grandparent, whoever, they have the best interest of that child. And that is the common ground is the trust and safety of the child. Yep. Yeah.

Mackenzie DeJong:

I love that.

Courtney Hammond:

When did I become so grown up? I love this.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Why? You're very grown up! What?

Courtney Hammond:

When did I become so grown up? I'm like, wow, that was really grown up.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Like, yeah, girl. You're getting it. Yeah. That was beautiful. And it is. I think that is. Yeah, I'm like in a really nuanced, gentle way. But yeah, you're right. The blunt version of it is, it's not about us. And we say that sometimes, I'm like, oh, I have to be the adult here, right? Like, I have to be the parent here. But it is, that's this too. To the benefit of my child, I have to find a way to move forward in their best interest.

Courtney Hammond:

And I've been in that position where I'm like, God, I wish that my mom would just butt out so I could get to know my dad, you know, and I've seen it happen, you know. I've been that person that would use Lexi as a pawn. I'll call myself out again. I was that woman that, oh, I have sole custody. You get visitation, Father's Day, every other Christmas, you know, but why am I doing that? Yeah. Why is that fair? And I'm just like, you know, I'm really go with the flow kind of person. Hey, if you want to go hang out? Yes. Do it, you know.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And that structure fits for you. Yeah. And that it was to the benefit of your child again. Yes. That reflection I think, it's hard though. Because if someone the like human person in me is like, well, hopefully human person, right? Part of me is like, you're coming to me for advice because you're having a hard time. Right. And so validating, you're right, this does sound really hard, I think is a part of it. Yeah. And helping them, yeah, get back to what's the important part of it. Like what's at the root of it?

Mackenzie DeJong:

Yeah, well, thank you.

Courtney Hammond:

I love that. That was a good question.

Mackenzie DeJong:

I thought of it myself. It was my brain. My human self.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Every person's self. Now we're just all human person self every time. Awesome. Well, that's all we have for today, kind of thinking about this idea of custody and kinship and co-parenting. What does the research tell us? What is the reality of our experiences, right, and that we're balancing a really nuanced thing, but that it does come back to our kids. And so there are some common challenges. There are very diverse situations that I think some of us may not have even used that term of co-parent for what we're going through or that term of kinship care that we were going through. But that people who are sharing responsibility of raising a child and the responsibilities of, you know, their well being and so that there's conflict in there sometimes and how do we navigate those challenges and focus on what our kids need? So we hope that you found some strategies or heard some strategies today that are

Courtney Hammond:

Our daily affirmation. beneficial for you. But what are we going to talk? Wait, I almost forgot my positive language example. What am I doing?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Close call. Okay. So our positive language affirmation for today, I may not be able to provide for all of my child's needs by myself right now, but I'm building the support around us and positive relationships to make it happen. All right. So I mean, I could have told that to our person who came to our desk to ask us about it. But thinking about whether or not it's about whether you're providing all of the care for that child, but that I may not be the only person, right, I'm not the only person that my child benefits from, you know, whatever that language looks like for you, but acknowledging to yourself, I'm keeping the benefit of my child in mind, right? Or I am building the support or relationships around us. So that's our little affirmation as we think about co-parenting and caring, sharing the care. Yeah, sharing the caring of our kids is sharing and caring, those words, the little rhyme there. I just like can't quite put the words out. But we got there. Anyway, what are we talking about next week?

Courtney Hammond:

Our next episode is our season finale.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, the last one.

Courtney Hammond:

And it's probably going to be my favorite episode yet, even though I probably have all of them. But it's about really rebuilding the relationships with our kids. I do this daily. And I love learning how to do it better.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So yeah, we're excited. I'm excited to hear about your experience and expertise and to talk through this with you. So you're right. That will be the last one of the season, but an important one for us to get to. Sad, sad, sad, but it'll be good. It'll be so good. So thanks for joining us today on The Science of Parenting podcast. And you know what, if you have been enjoying our content, enjoying our podcast feed, you'd be willing to take a moment and give us a five star rating in your podcast app. That would be helpful. It helps more people find our podcasts and it demonstrates to our internal leadership, hey, we like what they're doing and we want them to keep doing it. So if you like what we're doing here, a five star rating is a great way to support us.

Courtney Hammond:

So come along as we tackle the ups and downs, the ins and outs, and the research and reality all around The Science of Parenting.

Anthony Santiago:

The Science of Parenting is hosted by Mackenzie Johnson, produced by Mackenzie DeJong. with research and writing by Barbara Dunn Swanson. Send in questions and comments to parenting@iastate.edu and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full nondiscrimination statement or accommodation inquiries, go to www.extension.iastate.edu/diversity/ext.

Mackenzie Johnson:

This project was supported by the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services. Bureau of substance use the sub award from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The contents of this episode are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of nor are they an endorsement by Iowa DHHS, SAMHSA, HHS or the US government.