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My goal is to provide you with tools that help inform, empower and boost your confidence as a parent so you can make the best decisions possible for you and your family.  Parenting is challenging, but you don’t have to do it alone. I am here to guide you through the 3D Parent approach to parenting, so you can stop struggling and start celebrating all of the time you have with your children.

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Co-Parenting Like A Pro With Merry And Ashly Senn

May 19, 2021

“You have to keep the kids at the pinnacle of the decision-making. They are the true north.” --Merry Senn

 

This week on The 3D Parent Podcast, I’m discussing co-parenting with special guests Merry and Ashley Senn. Merry and Ashley are good friends of mine from the theater community. They have been married for just over five years. They live in Edmonds WA and share 2 boys Calvin (12) and Sawyer (9). Years of friendship and couplehood have led them to begin their own podcast, Your Friends Ash & Mer. They have honest and mostly hysterical conversations about marriage, parenthood, and making it through this life together. The highlight of their show is when Ash & Mer talk to their incredible friends from every facet of their life and bring their unique and incredible stories to their podcast listeners. They are great examples of people who make co-parenting look easy, despite its challenges.

 

We will go over topics such as:

  • Common challenges of co-parenting
  • Navigating family transitions and custody arrangements
  • Tools parents can use to make co-parenting easier

 

Merry and Ashley say that keeping their children at the pinnacle of their decision-making is crucial. If you keep their best interests at heart, then the best decisions will be made. Co-parenting is challenging, but with good communication and strategy, it is manageable. 

 


 

Things You Will Learn

[00:03] I’m honored to have guests Merry and Ashley Senn joining me in this episode. Merry and Ashley are good friends of mine from the theater community. They have been married for just over five years. They live in Edmonds WA and share 2 boys Calvin (12) and Sawyer (9). Years of friendship and couplehood have led them to begin their own podcast, Your Friends Ash & Mer. They have honest and mostly hysterical conversations about marriage, parenthood, and making it through this life together. The highlight of their show is when Ash & Mer talk to their incredible friends from every facet of their life and bring their unique and incredible stories to their podcast listeners. I’m excited to have them on the podcast today to talk about co-parenting. They are great examples of people who make co-parenting look easy, despite its challenges. I thought their perspective would be very valuable for you all to hear. 

[04:11] I first asked Ashley and Merry to describe some of the challenges they face with co-parenting. They said the hardest part is not being able to see your children every day. Nobody starts out their parenting journey thinking that they won’t be able to have their children with them all of the time. It’s painful to watch your children walk away, and there’s a lot of grief that comes with it. Unfortunately, it never really gets easier, but you can eventually gain peace. With good communication and strategy, you can come to an arrangement that works for your whole family. 

[11:02] Custody arrangements look different for every family. In Merry and Ashley’s family, they share 50/50 custody with Merry’s ex-husband and his current wife. Their boys were small at the time of the divorce, and they agreed upon a 3-4-4-3 schedule. Meaning the children alternate being with them for three days, then the other parents for four days, then them for four days, and so on. It was complicated at first, but over time it became normal. They agreed on this plan to have a 50/50 custody arrangement so that the kids wouldn’t be apart from either parent for an extended period. They also alternate holidays. When Merry and her ex-husband got divorced, they had to present a detailed co-parenting plan for the judge’s approval. Every aspect of their schedule had to be documented and agreed upon.

[14:50] What helps their family stick to their plan is that everyone is regarded as an equal member. They jokingly refer to themselves as the “parenting committee.” All four of them are involved with their children’s lives. They meet with teachers, doctors, and others together. Any time a major decision needs to be made regarding their children, they all meet together, and they know they each have an equal voice. They are also able to revisit and revise their plan as their children grow older. As their children mature, they want them to be able to voice their opinions about their family’s plans. When stress about their schedule runs high, they try to ground themselves and remember that ultimately, their children are lucky to have four people that love them and want to be with them. That allows them to be able to make the best decisions for their children. 

[20:49] I asked Ashley how she views her role as a stepmom to her boys. She’s very thankful that her boys think of her as their “other mom” and not as someone secondary or less than. In fact, the word “stepmom” is almost a bad word in their house, and the boys get mad if Ashley refers to herself as their stepmom. Initially, Ashley’s biggest surprise was how smooth her transition to the mothering role was. She and Merry were friends long before they had a romantic relationship, so she was already involved in the boys’ lives. She says Merry did a wonderful job of including her in parenting right away and not making her feel less important. In their family, they aim for every parent to have equal influence. 

[28:58] I asked Merry how she has navigated the transitions with her family. She said that keeping her children at the pinnacle of their decision-making is crucial. If you keep their best interests at heart, then the best decisions will be made. While Merry loves her children and wants to be with them, if she kept with them all of the time, she would be neglecting them from a father who loves them. 

[32:38] Another important part of navigating family transitions for Merry was giving the other set of parents the benefit of the doubt. She doesn’t always agree with what her ex-husband does with her boys. But it’s not helpful to assume he is coming from a place of malicious intent. Sometimes emotions will run high and buttons will get pushed. It’s important to ground in making the best decisions for the children and being thankful that their children have so many people in their lives who love them.

[36:24] I asked Ashley and Merry what their biggest tips were for communication. For them, they found that emotions ran high when only Merry and her ex-husband talked, so they have tried to convert all of their communication into group messaging. They make decisions with all four of them present whenever possible. This gives all four of them equal standing and ensures no one feels left out. 

[41:15] If they could offer their biggest piece of advice to anyone else going through co-parenting, they would say to never talk about the other parent in a negative way around your children. This will only create a divide between you and your child. Your children love you as their parents equally. If you talk about the other parent negatively, it puts them in a position of having to choose loyalty between you. It’s completely unfair to your children. If you have an issue, you as the adult need to address it with the other parent. You cannot put this on your children. You also need to acknowledge when you do slip up and say something you shouldn’t have. Everyone has those moments, but it’s important for your children to see you acknowledge them. 

[48:40] Merry and Ashley also encourage parents to be specific and detailed with their parenting plan. It’s important to write everything down. It may not feel necessary at the time you’re writing it, but it might become necessary to revisit later on. This plan is for you and to understand what you have agreed to. When issues come up, you can refer back to it. 

[52:00] I asked Ashley and Merry what the number one tool they use for co-parenting is. Their answer? A google calendar. They have a google calendar that all four parents have access to and can edit. Everything goes on the calendar. It’s a great accountability tool. It ensures that everyone knows what to expect. They have found that tempers run the highest when people aren’t aware of the plan. So having this visual tool really helps them. They also keep a rule in their family that if their children have a public event like a sports practice or performance, anyone is allowed to come, no matter whose “day” it is. This allows them to see their children more often, and it gives their children a strong sense of support. 

[58:18] Merry and Ashley said that the number one way they connect as a family is over dinner. No matter what is going on, they try to carve out intentional space to have that meal together. This grounds them as a family and allows them to have deeper conversations with their children. Their lives can be hectic at times, but having that space for dinner to connect really helps them. They have found that giving their children expected routines and rituals is one of the best ways to help them navigate their lives split between sets of parents.

 

  


 

Quotes From Episode 67

“It doesn't get easier, but hopefully you can find some peace during the process.” --Merry Senn

“They saw that it wasn't going to be different levels of parents. Nobody's more important than the other person.” --Ashley Senn

“You have to keep the kids at the pinnacle of the decision-making. They are the true north.” --Merry Senn

“You have to give the other set of parents the benefit of the doubt.” --Merry Senn

“Parenting, in general, shows us where we need to do our own maturing as grownups.” --Beaven Walters

 


 

Let's work together! I provide 1:1 support for parents motivated to make positive changing in their parenting and gain confidence and increase fulfillment in their role as parents. If this sounds like it might be what you've been looking for, book a free consultation today.

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About Your Host

I’m Beaven Walters, your host and guide on this crazy and fulfilling journey as a parent.

As a certified parent coach, parent educator and mom of 4 children, I am passionate about helping parents navigate the tough stuff while maintaining dignity, direction and deep connection in your family relationships.  I have spent over 10 years teaching in a variety of educational settings with multiple age groups, and now I am delighted to bring those experiences to you at home. Throughout this podcast, we will cover topics such as tantrums, sibling conflict, screen time overload and transitioning into the teenage years.

My goal is to provide you with tools that help inform, empower and boost your confidence as a parent so you can make the best decisions possible for you and your family.  Parenting is challenging, but you don’t have to do it alone.

I am here to guide you through the 3D Parent approach to parenting, so you can stop struggling and start celebrating all of the time you have with your children.