There’s a saying in writing that you write what you know. Alysha Price takes a slightly different tack — coach what you know. Price is founder of the Price Dynamic, a professional family-coaching firm in New Hope that she founded in 2019. The 40-year-old north Minneapolis native is a child of successful co-parents, and is a successful co-parent herself to a 17-year-old son who just started college. Like her own mother, Price was never married to her child’s father. And like her parents, Price has a simple strategy with her son’s father: Put their child first. As a neutral family mediator in the age of COVID-19, Price has experienced firsthand multiplying stressors on single parents and co-parenting families. She offers strategies — and success stories — below.
Q: Where did the idea for the Price Dynamic come from?
A: Our son was in the fifth grade. We went to parent-teacher conferences. My son’s teacher said he did not know our son didn’t live in the household with both of us until Jasir stood up and read an essay about a fun weekend at his dad’s house. The teacher explained there was never a time he felt there was any kind of a communication breakdown between parents. I stored that in my head. By the time we walked out to the parking lot, I high-fived his father [and said], “The fact the teacher had no clue we didn’t live together — we’re doing something right!” It became really clear to me that I watched what my parents did, I took what worked from that, and I was dead set on making my family work.
Q: Do you bring in co-parents together when you begin coaching?
A: Very seldom do we start by coaching the pair together.
Q: So, what do they tell you when they’re apart?
A: Most people come in and say, “I don’t know how to get the other person to do what I want them to do.” In their minds, they think, “If I talk with you, you’ll make them act better.” And that’s exactly what you have to let go of — your desire to make them do something else. They come in and say, “I’m doing everything I need to do — he’s just not responding to it.” But that’s about the parent, not the child. I always point out: We’ve been talking 30 minutes, and you have not mentioned your child. Isn’t that who we’re here to support? People get really confused, thinking co-parenting work is about the other parent. If both parents have a mutual understanding, care, love and concern for their child, they will make it work.
Q: Aside from putting the child first, what are other challenges co-parents will likely face?
A: Finances are a huge source of contention among co-parents. The financial piece is never going to be fair and you need to be OK with that. If you’re looking for who pays for what to be equal, you’re not co-parenting. Also, you need to define your family before the courts do. Because involving outside courts can push you further apart and create an adversarial relationship. Be willing to forgive yourself for what went wrong, how the relationship ended or for your vision not working. The quicker you accept your new family dynamic, the quicker your child, or children, gets to create a new normal. Also, it’s important not to judge your co-parenting dynamic based on another family. You have to be willing to develop what will ultimately serve your unique circumstances.
Q: What about you as a kid made co-parenting work with your parents?
A: Kids have a huge role in co-parenting working. I was the type of kid where I valued my individual relationship with both parents. I never looked at it as them being a unit but more as them being a team. They were never married. It was always, you spend time with mom or you spend time with dad. I never felt at a loss, like there was this deficient means of support and love.
Q: Might you share a success story?
A: With one of my former colleagues, every other day there was a new concern: The dad didn’t pick up their child from day care, the dad’s not helping buy school clothes. It turned into me coaching her. I started to see her mind-set change. I was helping her try to understand he still deserved to be a dad and have a relationship with his child in spite of his shortcomings. Maybe four or five months after I left that job, she called me: “Can you believe my daughter is going to Illinois for the summer to be with her paternal grandparents?” She was in tears. When we first started talking, that would have never happened.
Q: Why do you think it worked?
A: She would have said something like, “Well, they might have wanted her to come, but if they’re not going to pay for all her summer clothes, she can’t go.” I’d talk with her around why that was irrational, why that was harmful to her child. Instead of you trying to punish dad, let’s think about how that affects your child.
Q: You’ve spoken about breaking generational curses. How?
A: There’s a lot of hurt, trauma, pain I’ve seen around relationships that don’t work. Women pride ourselves, especially Black women, in being strong in their independence, and their ability to just take anything that comes their way. As you keep building that up to women, this notion of not valuing what a man provides to a family or your child grows stronger and deeper and harder. If you have a generation of women in your family who had children, did not marry or got divorced, and they held it down and dad was gone, then it’s like, “We don’t need him. You’re strong. You can do it. Your mom did it. Your grandma did it.” And that keeps perpetuating. That’s a generational curse when you start to build this up. It was never the intention of the Black community to be this way.