Go Behind “Co-Parenting” with researcher Zoe Samara-Olson

Updated: Oct 3, 2019

To create each and every HelloJoey kit, our research team pours over hundreds of studies, books, and articles, and other materials to bring you an evidence-based exploration of the topic at hand. Here, researcher Zoe Samara-Olson answers our biggest questions about her experience digging in to “Co-Parenting,” offering her own perspective as a stepmom and explaining exactly how John Legend’s sweetest love song can help make those tough sacrifices feel a little more like small victories.




What makes the topic of co-parenting so important?

Having both parents actively involved in kids’ lives while keeping conflict out is very important for children’s well-being. To achieve that, it helps to know how to co-parent effectively with your spouse, ex-partner, parents-in-law, nannies, and everyone that has a significant role in your kid’s life – regardless of the present or past relationship between the adults involved. This is one of the most difficult things to do as a parent, particularly immediately after a separation or divorce.


Is there anything from your background that made this kit especially appealing?

I really wanted to do this kit because of my personal experiences with divorce and co-parenting. I am very close with my brother (who is divorced) and his two sons. I am also the step-mom of a 14-year old boy, and I know from experience how painful it is to lose contact with a parent – and the difference it makes when adults can prioritize the kid’s best interest above anything else.


Can you talk more about one of the resources that’s featured in the kit?

One of the books we recommend is my personal favorite: “The Conscious Parent's Guide to Co-Parenting: A Mindful Approach to Creating a Collaborative, Positive Parenting Plan.” It advocates using mindfulness and self-reflection as tools to cultivate empathy and emotional intelligence in the way you relate with adults and children in the context of co-parenting. It also emphasizes the importance of the quality of your relationships and offers suggestions and tips for how to repair them, which is often needed in divorce situations.


Explain how you created one of the kit activities and share how it’s worked for you.

Activity #2 in the last episode of this kit (“A Thousand Victories”) was inspired by a video featured as an HelloJoey pick in the first episode that explains how you eat an elephant – a phrase used by the host Lisa Thompson. The activity has two take-aways:

  1. We can reward ourselves for all the right steps we take to achieve our goals instead of waiting until we see the final result, particularly for long-term goals.

  2. We can reward ourselves for the effort we put in to achieving our goals and not only for the outcome, particularly for the goals in which the outcome is partly in our control


I have been doing this activity for the past few weeks. Taking time to acknowledge and feel happy about the things I am doing well has been adding extra motivation, strength, and positivity to my life.


What was the most difficult aspect of this kit to explain clearly – and why?

It is difficult to explain how important it is to take care of yourself in the process of a divorce or separation (or any other major life change) while you are taking care of your kids. We all tend to go into “survival” mode, and the last thing we think about is taking care of ourselves first. It sounds counterintuitive.


To drive this point home myself, I often think of the safety instructions flight attendants give before take-off: In the event of an emergency, if oxygen masks drop and you are travelling with a child, put on your own mask first before assisting the other person.


Is there a personal co-parenting story you can share?

When I met my step-son, I could sense that it was difficult for him to open up and trust me as another mother figure because of certain painful experiences he had had in the past. He didn’t know how to ask for cuddling time and affection; instead of saying anything, he would hop in our bed, get under the blankets, and stay there.


It took many months before I was able to stroke his head over the covers, and even more before he could peek out and ask for affection without any barriers. This made me realize how much kids need us to be there for them, listen carefully, and understand what they need (not what we think they need) – and that they can bounce back from having their hearts and trust broken.


What’s one important fact or piece of information you hope parents take away from this kit?

Kids are resilient – and as long as parents are putting kids in the center and not the middle, they can survive and thrive even after major changes in their family structure. Also, reaching out for support, information, and practical tips can go a long way.


Can you sum up this kit in a song title?

There’s a phrase from the popular song “All of Me” by John Legend that says “Even when I lose, I’m winning.” During co-parenting, there are many moments when it looks like I have to “lose” – to compromise, sacrifice, and put aside my own needs or ego in the moment – but I don’t lose. I choose to do what’s best for my kid and I’m winning because my kid is winning, and that is the heart of parenting: the unconditional, sacrificial aspect of loving our kids and giving them our best, even when it hurts.


Want to learn more about “Co-Parenting” and how to help your family thrive after separation or divorce? Start your path to a solid parenting foundation in just 10 minutes a day. Check out the HelloJoey app.

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