Parenting Together After You’ve Parted

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Peacefully Parenting Together After You’ve Parted, Nancy Buck, 2/27/2018, U.S. News and World Report

When couples with children get a divorce, no matter what the circumstances of the breakup are, one fact remains: You will still be parenting together. Learning quickly how to work effectively with one another in your parenting roles will benefit you, and more importantly your children.

Divorce adds additional challenges to the already difficult job of being parents. When a couple is bound together in love, although it’s not always easy, they are able to work out their differences because of mutual interests, respect and the special bond they have. However, when a couple divorces, that all changes. The key for divorced parents is to stay focused on areas of common ground. You each love, care about and are vitally interested in the well-being of your children.

Here are some tips that may help:

  1.    Even though you may sometimes feel or believe that your former partner is not focused on your children’s well-being, give him or her the benefit of the doubt. Since you will never know the actual truth, if you choose to believe the best about the other parent, you will feel greater calm, peace and love. Doing this not only improves your own well-being, it also helps your children.
  2.    Avoid evaluating or complaining openly about how the other is parenting. If needed, choose one close and trusted friend who is willing to hear all of your rants and complaints. Don’t ever share these kinds of feelings with your children.
  3.    Don’t attempt to control how your former partner parents. You get to parent the way you want. Let the other parent do the same. Bring any necessary items of disagreement to conflict transformation sessions (described below).
  4.    Maintain family traditions and holiday celebrations. It’s fine and reasonable to introduce some changes and new additions or ideas. But be sure to continue with other traditions even as family dynamics change. This will help your children feel stable, safe and secure, particularly during times of transition.
  5.   When speaking about the other parent, compliment, praise and emphasize their strengths, gifts and special qualities. Remember, the other parent represents half of who your child is now and is becoming. When you criticize, belittle or degrade the other parent, your child feels as though you are doing the same to him or her, and speaking to who that child may become. Now, in regards to talking about your former partner, it is more important than ever to follow the axiom, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Your goal during these special sessions is to work together with the other parent to create and develop a mutually respectful parenting partnership. This can be particularly difficult because frequently it was your inability to cooperate when you were together that probably contributed to your parting. However, it can be very helpful for each parent to define what the problem is, what he or she wants and what each feels is best for the kids. Each parent takes a turn describing the problem as she or he perceives it, then explains what she or he wants, including why that parent believes a suggested solution is best for the child or children.

Once one parent has defined the problem, the desired solution and the benefit to the kids, and before the other takes a turn, that parent repeats back what he or she heard from the first parent to speak, making sure it’s clearly understood. With a shared understanding, you’ll be in a better position to address concerns related to parenting your kids. The ultimate goal is to transform areas of conflict into mutually satisfying solutions.

You may need assistance using and following this process. You want to keep angry or hurt feelings out of these sessions. The goal is not to air grievances but to work together to develop, improve and maintain a parenting partnership.

Initially you would benefit from having these sessions at least bimonthly. Your ultimate goal is not only to resolve your parenting differences, but also to learn how to use this process productively. In the beginning, try working together to resolve only one relatively easy issue to help you both learn to cooperate and find resolutions, transforming a conflict into a mutually satisfying solution. The more you practice, the better your use of the process will become and the less frequently you’ll need to have conflict transformation sessions.

You may also benefit from asking a neutral third party to help facilitate these sessions to achieve success. This person should not be either parent’s sibling, best friend or any other person who is invested in the outcome. A professional mediator or counselor or family friend who understands your goals and the rules of the process would work. The person needs to understand that his or her job is not to take sides, but to follow the process and help guide you both to becoming the parenting partners that your children deserve.

The goal of peacefully parenting together after you’ve parted is to help your children maintain a lifelong loving relationship with both parents. In addition to other benefits, your children will love you even more for taking this approach. The opposite is also true. If you attempt to poison your children against the other parent, what usually happens is they become angry and unloving toward you. During this challenging life change, choose to give your children the gift of a strong, loving relationship with both parents.


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