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How do I deal with a 'gopher' co-parent?

One of the great challenges after divorce is learning to co-parent effectively. Unfortunately, there are some real problems that can occur when one parent is a "gopher" parent. In other words, the parent conveniently appears and disappears as he or she wants to.

Here are five tips to help you deal with this type of parent without hurting your child or losing your temper:

-- Stay calm and keep your composure. When the other parent finally does make an appearance, don't start verbally attacking him or her. It can be more beneficial to act as though he or she is around, available and interested in his or her child. You can then deal with current issues and not delve into past problems.

-- Keep the other parent informed about what is going on. While you may feel as though you want to keep any and all information away from the other parent, keeping your ex informed about what is going on will be helpful to your child.

-- Be respectful. This is often difficult to do when you are angry at the other parent for not being fully present in your child's life. However, by keeping interactions positive, it will be less likely that the other parent will want to stay away to avoid confrontation.

-- Stay in touch with your former in-laws. You may be able to enlist the help of your child's grandparents to help you co-parent. Maybe they can help by enforcing your rules when the child visits in order to keep things more structured.

-- Consider family counseling. The other parent may not be open to counseling, but you won't know unless you broach the subject. If he or she will not attend counseling, you may go by yourself in order to learn new tools and resources for interacting with a gopher co-parent.

Co-parenting is difficult enough without always wondering if the other parent will be around when he or she is supposed to. It's also very difficult on the children. Put a strong support program in place to help you. Your divorce attorney can likely recommend some resources that can provide assistance.

Source: Huffington Post, "5 Tips for Dealing with a Gopher Co-Parent," Marina Edelman, LMFT, Jan. 29, 2016

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