On a recent episode of the podcast he co-hosts with his fiancée Sharna Burgess and Randy Spelling, Green spoke of the positive relationship that he and Fox share, saying: “When we need to, we communicate really well, we are open to things, we don’t take things personally. It is my goal, and I think it’s her goal as well, that the kids are in as healthy [of an] environment as they can be in.”
While his comments were complimentary, Green apparently had second thoughts about having spoken so publicly about their relationship after the podcast aired. Admitting that he didn’t check in with Fox (or ex Vanessa Marcil, with whom he shares son Kassius, 21) before recording the podcast, he told Page Six, “No, no. I reached out to [Megan] afterwards ... I said to her in a text, I just said, ‘Hey, just to let you know, I discussed our co-parenting in our podcast. I’m sorry if you didn’t want that.’”
The following week, Green was at it again on another podcast (“Whine Down With Jenna Kramer”), characterizing himself, Fox and Burgess as “one big family,” and describing how Fox will enter their home when she is picking up the kids and hang out for a while, even holding Burgess and Green’s new baby, Zane, who is 14 months.
But even when speaking in such glowing terms, a co-parenting relationship with an ex is a sensitive subject — one that left Green wondering if he should’ve cleared it beforehand with Fox.
In the delicate ecosystem of a co-parenting arrangement, any time a boundary is crossed or an agreement isn’t upheld, it threatens the harmony, which, in turn, impacts all the children involved.
Think twice about your audience before speaking about your ex.
While most of us don’t need to check that it’s OK for us to say nice things about our relationships with other people, caution is warranted when the person in question is an ex and a co-parent. This caution needs to be amplified for anyone living in the public eye.
“They are famous. This means they play by different rules, especially when talking to the media. His apology was in good faith and he and Megan should proactively talk about how they want to respond to questions related to their co-parenting. That way no one is caught off guard or overstepping the other parent’s comfort level,” Erin Pash, a marriage and family therapist and founder of Ellie Mental Health, told HuffPost.
“For the rest of us,” Pash continued, “it’s ok for co-parents to share their story.” In other words, you don’t need to check in with your ex before talking about your co-parenting relationship among friends or family members, but should let them know before speaking to the media.
“The fact that he apologized was appropriate, but he probably should have reached out to Megan before he did the podcast, cleared it with her and maybe invited her to join the podcast and give her point of view,” said Dina de Giorgio, a divorce and family lawyer in New York.
“Effective co-parenting requires trust, and that probably means not talking to reporters about each other, even if it was a positive comment,” she said.
Kelsey Queen, a family law attorney at Sodoma Law in North Carolina, said it’s important that both parents feel like they have an equal voice when it comes to decision-making.
“Brian Austin Green spoke for Megan Fox and shared an opinion about the structure of the children’s familial unit without allowing her the opportunity to voice her opinion of whether the children’s interests would be best promoted by doing so,” Queen told HuffPost.
There’s one audience you should always consider first.
Most of us don’t need to worry about talking to Page Six or doing podcast interviews, but you’ll want to apply a heavy layer of caution to anything you say regarding your ex in front of your child.
“Children are taught from a young age that their own identities, personalities, and character traits are a mix of each of their parents. As a general rule, parents should protect the positive opinions their children have developed of parents, knowing those opinions reflect directly on a child’s opinion of their own self-worth,” Queen said.
But don’t make the mistake of avoiding your ex. You need to be in regular communication with them in order to care for your child.
“Co-parents should talk regularly. In fact, the more kids they share, the more they should talk — and not just about their kids,” said Pash. “If co-parents are talking regularly, they can have conversations about their ‘boundaries’ or things they are uncomfortable with and work to find solutions. Boundaries that are not created collaboratively are usually going to cause stress and tension in a relationship.”
If regular, healthy communication is part of your relationship with your ex, you have a strong foundation to work from when issues do arise.
Is “one big happy family” the goal?
The scene that Green described, with his ex-wife holding the baby he had with his new partner, sounds ideal — though it may not be feasible for every family, and of course doesn’t apply to situations involving domestic violence or other safety concerns.
But, as much as possible, such an arrangement usually does serve the best interests of the children.
“The better the relationship between the [parent and new partner], the better it is for the children,” Charlotte Christian, a divorce lawyer in Alabama, told HuffPost.
This may require a bit of “fake-it-till-you-make-it,” but it’s worth it for all the kids involved.
“You have to overcome the issues of not wanting to be in the ex-spouse’s house or doing joint events. This is also the children’s home and their events,” Christian said. If there’s an event that you really can’t bring yourself to do, “just say you are not able to make it, do not involve the children in the ‘why,’” she advised.
In situations where there is conflict among the adults, they should try to keep children out of it.
“If parents absolutely cannot get along, it’s very important that kids don’t get put in the middle of the conflict,” said Pash.
When the interests of the children are centered, adults should be able to come together to talk about things like schedules, rules and boundaries. Your arrangement doesn’t have to fit an ideal image, but it does need to work for everyone involved.
“Every co-parenting relationship differs, so there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach to structuring relationships with new partners and co-parents. Each parent should vulnerably listen to and openly communicate about the boundaries that will need to be enforced to allow all parties to feel respected and remain focused on the children,” Queen said.