"Joint Custody with a Jerk"
by Julie A. Ross, M.A. and Judy Corcoran
Review by Megan Parlette
We all have to deal with jerks from time-to-time, but what if the jerk is your former partner and current co-parent? This is the main question answered by this book. The themes of this work are the importance of effective co-parenting, cultivating effective communication techniques, and narrowing down and solving problems.
I was taken in by the easy-to-read flow of this book, and I appreciate its light-hearted tone, even while it deals with serious subject matter. As Mary Poppins says, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down…” And this book does ask you to take your medicine, but it also provides the prescription for handling other people as well.
The first topics covered are the thoughts and emotions that many parents feel after a big breakup or divorce – “What did I ever see in that jerk?” or “Could I have done something differently to avoid this situation?” The authors acknowledge that you may have lost respect for your former partner, but it is important to remember that together you embarked on one of life’s most important jobs – raising a child. Your ex will always be your co-parent, and you can’t NOT deal with them from time-to-time. You will also be encouraged to look plainly at yourself to determine how you might be contributing or even creating the problems that are initially attributed to your ex.
So, how exactly do you do all that? The book moves through identifying the problem, separating your feelings from the actual problem, and deciding how much, if any, energy you want to put into solving the problem. The next tool the authors present is the “Problem Pyramid” (which I may or may not have printed out and posted next to my desk at home) that helps determine “who tops the problem pyramid”, i.e. who has the responsibility to solve the problem – you, your co-parent, or your child. The good news is that not all problems require YOU to solve them! The even better news is that the bulk of the book goes through how to handle the three different possibilities with real-life examples, communication strategies, and creative solutions.
The last chunk of topics cover the “do’s and don’ts” of applying these strategies in our digital world, helping your child cope with the change that comes with divorce, and on moving forward for yourself.
Take note that while this book is useful for many divorced parents, it is not equipped to advise on situations that involve domestic violence or abuse. Those situations require individualized professional attention that this book cannot provide.
If you are looking for practical advice on how to deal with a difficult co-parenting relationship, we recommend that you pick up “Joint Custody with a Jerk”. The authors do an excellent job of covering the many emotions and issues that come out during or post-divorce, and they are able to cover these concepts while providing logistics for real-life application. This is the type of book that I would highlight, dog-ear or mark the most relevant passages, make notes in, and return to again-and-again.