The information about your family can be used for what is called a SWOT analysis of the family. In business management, the SWOT analysis looks at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Strengths: It is not as easy as you might think to list the strengths in your family. During a divorce, it is too easy to only see the negative. You may be so angry with your coParent that it is hard to think of one good thing about her. “She packs a good lunch for the kids” may be the best you can come up with at first. Focusing on the children helps make this clearer. The reason you got a divorce was not because she is a bad parent. Problems in the “wife” area led to the divorce, not problems with her parenting skills. Think about your coparent as she is with your children. Is she good at managing school schedules? Does she encourage the children to be active in sports and school? Is she calm when there is a medical emergency? All of these are strengths.
Weaknesses: Family strengths can also be their weaknesses. A church may be supportive when you are married, but have harsh rules about divorce. The support may vanish after you are divorced. Or your coParent may remarry someone of another faith. Conflict may come up about what faith the children should be raised in. A steady job can be a positive unless the work hours don’t allow you to take the children to doctor’s appointments.
Other weaknesses might include health issues with your coParent. As long as she takes her medication, she is fine. But the medication may make her too tired at times to pick up the children. This is a known weakness that can be factored into the parenting plan. Another possible weakness is parenting style. Your coParent may have a completely different way of setting rules for your children than you do. Conflict may come up because your rules don’t match. This is not always a weakness. Sometimes different styles of parenting lead to the same end, even though they are different. “At Mom’s house we eat two veggies at dinner. Dad gives us fruit or a tomato drink, since he is not such a good cook.”
Opportunities: Sometimes opportunities open up unexpectedly. An after-school program may start a special program for kids of divorced parents. A piano teacher may move in next door. Your job may give you a chance to work from home two days a week, making after-school care easier. Opportunities will come and go. Recognize them as they arise in order to use them for your children’s good.
Threats: in the family can be risks—things that might happen—or actual problems happening right now. Your ex might be a recovering alcoholic. The risk would be if he fell off the wagon and started drinking again. It’s not happening now, but it is a risk nonetheless. An actual threat to the family might be money problems that make it hard to sustain two households. Another kind of threat is an emergency threat. This is a threat that can cause immediate harm to anyone in the family. Violence in the family is an emergency.
Knowing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats makes the parenting plan more likely to succeed. Some problems can be prevented before they happen in the first place. But if problems do arise, the Parenting Coordinator can be the calm problem-solver in the middle of the crisis. As a parent, you can be too close to the problem.
The Parenting Coordinator will not provide legal advice, but can help you identify the best way to get the advice you need.
Editor’s Note: The post is an edited excerpt from the book COPARENTING AFTER DIVORCE; A GPS FOR HEALTHY KIDS written by Debra K. Carter, PhD.