HINTS FOR COMMUNICATING IN HIGH STRESS PARENTING MEETINGS
• Before the meeting begins visualize what you want to accomplish
• Always put the child’s best interest first
• Stay focused on that goal
• Respectfully listen to the other party
• Refrain from criticizing
• When reaching an impasse, agree to disagree and move on
• Stay focused on the present and the future, don’t bring up old issues
• View frailties with compassion
• Be willing to compromise
• Express appreciation for useful ideas
• If the other party appears to be baiting you, don’t go for the bait
• Be solution oriented
• Keep it businesslike
• Consider why the other party is behaving the way they are and take that into consideration when you respond
• If things get out of hand leave the room until you and the other party calm down
• Endeavor to bring compassion into the relationship
• Pick your battles and prioritize
• If you are having trouble getting an opportunity to express your opinions, express your appreciation for the other parties’ views and add that you would like an opportunity to express your views
• Remember that high conflict between parents has long term negative effects on your child
• Remember children have rights and parents have an obligation to protect and preserve those rights
• You will earn your child’s respect if you successfully communicate and resolve differences
• For a decision to work, it must be a decision your child can accept. Your child also has to live with the consequences of your resolution to difficult issues
BENEFITS TO THE CHILDREN WHEN PARENTS COOPERATE AND EFFECTIVELY CO-PARENT
A Sense of Family:
Children can experience a sense of “family” when parents work together on their behalf. Children can and should feel safe and nurtured in a divorced family. They should feel that their own well-being is more important than the “wars” their parents fight with one another. When they are in the presence of both parents they should feel comfortable and safe instead of waiting for the next explosion.
Out of the Middle:
One of the most significant stressors on children of divorce is the sense that they are caught in the middle between two warring people, both of whom they love. When parents learn to co-parent effectively they stop putting the children into the middle of loyalty conflict and they work together as a team, without involving their children as messengers or allowing them to feel they are betraying one or both parents.
Parents who Parent Successfully:
When communication and co-parenting improve, parents are able to exchange the information that is essential for healthy child rearing. They are also able to establish consistency between homes and set policies in place on such matters as toilet training, bedtimes, homework, and, for older children, driving privileges. Parents who effectively co-parent can take a pro-active approach to parenting and not simply react to real and, at times, imagined threats they perceive from one another.
Children deserve to have their parents be the best role models possible. Children learn by observing the outcome of their parents’ countless day-to-day interactions. They can observe how two people who love them can work together cooperatively, and they can then apply these strategies to their own communications and interactions. They learn that the love of a parent for his or her children can be more important than the need to win every battle.
Decreased Guilt and Improved Self-Esteem:
It is well known that the children of divorce frequently hold themselves responsible for their parent’s emotions. Children often make incorrect cause and effect assumptions, blaming themselves or only one parent for the changes the family is going through. When children experience the storms of parental conflict, they are extremely vulnerable to problems of guilt and poor self-esteem. As the conflict is reduced, fewer intensely hostile arguments between the parents bombard the children. Moreover, as children’s self-esteem improves, their functionality may increase in their academic and social environments.
The concept of parentification is related to the issues of guilt and self-esteem. When parents work together cooperatively, children can feel more comfortable simply being children. They do not feel that they must assume the role of taking care of one parent’s depression, or of protecting one parent from the other, or holding adult secrets. Instead, they are free to learn, grow, make mistakes and have successes. They can be free to love and be loved by both parents.