Tips

We welcome you read the following articles (tips) that may help you understand the transitions of divorce and single parenting. You will also find articles on conflict resolution, crisis problem solving and coparenting.

Effective Shared Parenting Strategies

These suggestions may be worth considering in developing an effective shared parenting strategy for raising children in separate households.

 

1. Agree on a parenting time schedule, times for phone calls and other types of communication between parent and child. Make parenting time with your children a priority. Be sure you follow through and be there when you say you will be there and be on time. Your children will get a message that you don’t care and it is unfair for the other parent to lie for you rather than see your children hurt. You will also be teaching your children to be irresponsible and disrespectful! Your child looks forward to seeing you and it’s important to remember that he or she depends on you to be there when you say you will. What you consider a schedule is a promise to your child.

2. Inform each other of the day-to-day lives of your children. Know your child’s day-to-day routine. This gives you a sense of what your child’s daily life is like when you’re not there. Even if you were raising your children in the same household you will not be with your children all the time. However, when living in the same household it is much easier to catch up on what is what is happening with your children. Give one another the courtesy of sharing the little things that you know about the lives of the kids.

3. Develop a communication plan with one another regarding your children only. Agree on a regular once a week, 15 minute telephone conference to discuss minor businesslike things regarding your children, such as appointments, extracurricular activities, school needs and scheduling changes. Do not schedule this conference during an exchange and make it a time when the children are settled down and at a time when you are not hurried or stressed.

4. Develop a communication plan with your children. It is important to have a plan for staying in touch with your child when you don’t have parenting time. A regular phone call or, for older children, the use of email, text messaging, or other technology can work well. It is essential that both you and the other parent agree this is important.

5. Know the important people in your child’s life. Know the people at your child’s school and church or temple, and the child’s teachers, coaches, and best friends. Use a joint communication notebook to inform one another about the lives of your children in addition to verbal communications. Writing appointments down, names of who your children are hanging out with, and listing the names of teachers and others involved in your children’s lives is a good way of keeping your children safe as well as keeping both parents informed and involved with the loves of their kids.

6. Keep your child out of parental disagreements. No matter what the feelings are between you and the other parent, avoid transferring your emotions, opinions or feelings onto your children. It is also frightening, and at the least, upsetting, when parents fight in front of their children. Keep your children out of the middle of your battles and always ensure that both of you love them and that your disagreements are between you and the other parent and that you will make the important decisions regarding their lives. Ensure them that they will never have to choose between you. Keeping your children out of your battles ensures that your children have a peaceful and healthy home environment.

7. Work through parenting style differences. It is not unusual for one parent to be stricter on household rules, bedtimes and chores than the other parent. This can cause disagreements, but parents can overcome the challenges when they work together. Agree on what is most important regarding your children, responsible with their school work, treating others with respect and good moral values. For every disagreement regarding a parenting style ask yourself how important it is in establishing what is important.

8. Show appreciation and respect for one another. Set your children free to express love for both of you. Your children learn about healthy relationships when they see parents respect one another.

9. Think of the other parent as a resource. No one knows your children like you and the other parent. There is no such thing as a “perfect” parent. Do the best you can and avoid being critical or demanding. Give one another the benefit of the doubt and think of one another as a resource in raising healthy, happy kids – and responsible and compassionate adults.

10. Have a plan for how to handle new people in your life. When you or the other parent enter a new relationship, help your child adjust. Allow your children the time to develop relationships with step parents and step siblings. Don’t expect too much of your significant other or your children by moving relationships along too quickly.

11. Include your child in regular home life activities, chores and responsibilities. The best times with children can be the simplest times. Even doing household chores, homework and just hanging out can bring good conversation, laughs and opportunity to develop a good relationship with your child.

12. Develop your own family rituals. Develop special routines just for you and your child. Holidays will be different, and children grieve what used to be. Develop your own special traditions. It could be a special place you go or something you make together. Build family traditions that last into the generations to come!

How Can Parents Build a Shared Parenting Relationship That Works?

1:  Draw a close to the love relationship that involves respect and builds accountability.

Even in the most difficult of circumstances, a persistent show of respect of the other parent and being a parent that can be counted on by the other reaps huge rewards.  Refusing to reciprocate bad behavior with more bad behavior will help build peaceful closure of a past relationship much sooner than lashing out for being treated unfairly by the other parent.

Parents do not have to be best friends to co-parent effectively.  Peaceful ending of the love relationship is necessary or conflict will persist and destroy the ability of parents to build a good working relationship even when they know their children may be detrimentally affected. Trying to remain best friends may eventually create its own set of problems and should not be the goal in creating an effective co-parenting relationship. Work towards building a communication plan for communicating information about the children, including but not limited to school activities, new friends your children may have, and even the day-to-day smaller things that build good rapport between one another and provides good continuity between households.

Education is a key component in learning ways to build a more effective shared parenting arrangement along with mediation if necessary.  A parenting plan designed by a professional is also an excellent tool, along with an online communication service specially designed for parents working towards building better parenting relationship with their children and more effective working relationship with each other. There are also many different web articles and resources to tap into.

  • Model respect and accountability to one another as parents and to your children.
  • Establish a means of communicating the needs of your children without discussion of your relationship with one another.
  • Get any needed help and research your community and the internet for resources.

“In most circumstances, refusing to fall into the trap of reciprocating disrespect with disrespect will eventually reap its rewards if done so persistently.”

Admittedly, this is not easy.  We cannot control the attitudes or responses of another person.  We can only control our own. It will not help the circumstances to criticize the responses of another or attempt to force the other to meet up to one’s own expectations.  Expectations are different, just as needs and perceptions are different.  Conflict always involves two opposing sides and conflicting needs.  However, the trick to building a good co-parenting relationship involves focusing on what you still have in common – raising healthy, happy kids!

2: Take time to heal and give time to transition.

Building a good working relationship parenting children apart from one another requires a great deal of adjustments for everyone. It takes time to heal and it requires patience and persistence to work through the transitions.

  • Emotions need time to be understood and worked through.
  • Everyone is affected and the entire family needs time to heal.
  • Parents need time to transition into new roles.
  • Children and parents need time to grieve the loss of the family the way it was.
  • Parents have to come to terms with loss of relationship and the dashing of dreams.

When a relationship breaks down the tension between individuals usually does not decrease, but the emotions will stabilize over time if individuals respect one another as individuals and allow one another some time and space. More often than not, the lines of communication broke down long before the decision was made to end a relationship. Communication usually becomes more strained and distanced after the breakup and parents may lose their ability to effectively communicate the needs of their children effectively.  They will have less opportunity to correct misunderstandings or even apologize when something is handled badly like they would have had if they were parenting within the same home. One miscommunication can create a mountain of mistrust and hurt feelings on an already strained situation.  A communication notebook, a scheduling calendar, a color-coded calendar on the refrigerator of both homes at children's eye levels, and a once a week 15 minute telephone conference between parents to communicate businesslike information regarding children only things such as schedule adjustments, information regarding school or medical appointments are some of the key communication components we teach in our Parents Forever educational program.  We also have added curriculum in communications, such as teaching effective ways to be heard when defenses are high."

When parents begin to parent apart or divorce, the relationship between parents must begin to evolve away from a love relationship and build into a relationship focused on only the raising of their children and the dangers of "negative intimacy."

Learning to parent apart and transition from a love relationship into a good working relationship for the sole purpose of raising children is a complicated transition for most parents. Building a good shared parenting relationship that works is unique in every situation and for every family.  It requires a willingness to learn what works and what does not.  It requires parents placing their own wants and desires aside and focusing on what their children need from them as their parents. Sometimes parents fall into the trap of what is termed "negative intimacy" whereby people fight in an effort to stay connected and oftentimes use constant court hearings as a means of staying connected.

Why do parents sometimes withhold parenting time or make it so difficult for another?

Emotional pain, feelings of being betrayed by another, and anger are usually the culprits beneath many negative behaviors between parents resulting in refusing of  parenting time without reason or making it difficult for the other parent to have a healthy and normal relationship with children. Remember that there is a reason behind it, and the reasons are valid to that parent. Even in the most difficult of circumstances, it is important to not give up and to stay consistent and accountable.  Give no reason for complaint by being on time for parenting exchanges and respectful even when disrespected. The breakup of the relationship did not occur overnight; the transition into a shared parenting relationship focused on the needs of children will not happen over night when dynamics between individuals are complicated and difficult.  It will not happen without focused determination to keep the children out of the middle of parental disagreements -- even if it may be one-sided right now.

"Parents need to establish new boundaries within this new and changing relationship. Roles within the family will change with the end of a relationship involving children."

For example, a stay-at-home parent may now have to become a working parent or a parent that was the sole breadwinner within a family may decide to work less hours in order to make time for single parenting responsibilities. Overtime may not be as much of an option -- or the opposite may also be true -- parents must work more than one job to make ends meet.  Whatever the situation, parents will need to work together to lessen childcare expenses and build in as much time with their children as possible.  Even with an equally shared parenting arrangement, 50/50 is still 50% less time with your children.  Parenting time becomes more valuable than gold!

"Parents must remember that this time is precious for both parents -- and even more critical -- children need to feel connected to both of their parents during this difficult transition!"

Both parents now have to juggle valuable time with their children between school schedules, extracurricular activities, work schedules -- even grand parenting time! When parents put themselves in the shoes of the other (empathy) it might become easier to understand the responses of one another and bring more tolerance of one another.  This, also, is a critical component to building a shared parenting arrangement that works.

Transitioning into a new structure within a family is no easy task, but remember you are not alone in any of these challenges.  Families eventually make the needed transitions, but takes time and it is not for the fainthearted in working through those challenges. Remember this: many families have faced down these challenges and have succeeded. 75%-80% of children raised in separate households grow up healthy and well-adjusted.  Parents develop a working relationship that works for their family structure -- and yours will likely do the same in time.  As a matter of fact, more families transition well than families that do not.  But parents have to season their way into it, like a fine wine.

"There are no hard and fast rules for these transitions"

Every family's needs are different. How well a family transitions and how quickly or smoothly the transitions occur oftentimes depends upon the ability of parents to overcome adversity. Children are affected by their parents' interactions with one another and the families' ability to work through conflict.  That is why it is so important that parents are persistent in building a good shared parenting relationship and working through the challenges in a persistent manner. When parents model disrespect for the other parent, children learn to treat the other gender with disrespect and negative generational patterns can form that have far reaching impact.  The opposite is also true! Children can learn the value of working through difficult times and gain confidence in their own ability as adults to handle tough times by watching their own parents lay aside their differences and work towards the common good of the entire family. Children learn that they don't have to be controlled by adversity!

One last word of encouragement: Do Not Give Up! We will have new articles every month addressing different aspects of shared parenting. Check our website frequently and share what you have learned from us.  Your comments and questions are also welcome on our Facebook page! We not only teach -- we also learn from those who we try to help.

This article was written by Lois Warner - Shared Parenting Educator and Family Mediator (FENE/SENE and Parenting Time Coordinator)

Dealing with the Aftermath of Emotional Pain

"Where can one safely put the baggage?"
I am afraid it does not work to hide it in your closet.  We have some suggestions that may help you process the aftermath of the end of a relationship and/or other difficult life circumstances that create major changes in one's life. Grieving is a normal process.  The process of grieving the end of a marriage, particularly with children, can be very difficult because there is no certain closure.  Divorce involves processing of multiple emotions and sometimes the emotions are conflicting with one another.  Divorce also involves conflict on different levels with stacking components making it very difficult to process.
Please take care of yourself! It is like the stewardess on an airplane instructing parents to put their oxygen masks on first so the parents will not pass out before they can take necessary protective measures for their children.  Your children will weather the breakup of their parents' relationship only as well as their parents.  If the parents do not heal and move forward, the children will "get stuck" in the process -- or worse yet -- get caught in the middle.
General Health: (1) Try to get out in the fresh air and sunshine. Take a walk every day.  Both the sun and exercise are important in keeping your mind clear, release of stress, aids sleep, and keeps your immune system healthier.  (2) Emotional pain and conflict will sap your energy. Try to eat healthy foods to stabilize your blood sugar and provide needed nutrition to feed your body.  (3) Avoid alcohol; it is a depressant. (4) Take time for reflection and relaxation.  Find time to laugh to counteract the times you cry.
Do not live in the past: Process the bad times, but dwell on the good times. One cannot change the past, but our thinking processes have a huge effect on how we view and process the current circumstances.  It will not change the current circumstances to focus on the good or the bad things.  It will help you move through the grieving process with grace.
Focus on the strengths of your family and think of the other things as "challenges." Think "solutions," rather than dwell on problems. Understand what factors can or cannot be changed and do what you can to work towards solutions and not wallow in the unfairness of the circumstances. Those are simple reframes that bring perspective and balance into your thought processes. Refuse to get negative; Stay positive!
Develop a Circle of Support: Surround yourself with people that affirm you as an individual, but are also honest with you if you get vindictive. Develop a circle of friends that will keep you engaged in healthy activities. Find people that will keep you balanced.  Find more than one support person or you may overburden them. Develop a network of support.  The more healthy support people we surround ourselves with the better.
Write out your support network: Who can you turn to if you need financial advice? Who can you turn to that may have information on community resources?  Who makes you laugh when you are feeling down?  Who can you safely do social activities with? Who can hold you when you cry?  Who do your trust to keep confidences? Who can you turn to for critical thinking and problem solving?

Do not bite the bait of gossip. Be careful of friends that feed you "helpful information" about what the other parent is doing or who they are dating. It is not helping you.  It will hurt you.  It is not necessary. If you are faced with these types of friends, or even family members, nicely thank them for their concern, but tell them that you need to remain as positive as you can about the circumstances and the other parent because they are the father/mother of your children.  Tell them that you do not want your children hearing negative comments, because it will hurt them.  Then, finally, tell them that it is hurting you.  If they care about you, and they are honestly trying to support you, they will understand.

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Productive Journaling

Journaling can be a powerful tool in resolving inner turmoil, broadening perspectives, and seeing solutions. If you are journaling personal issues, thoughts and feelings, be sure to not only journal negative thoughts, feelings and challenges. Be sure to look at all sides.  Not only should you list your concerns and feelings, but the old saying of "count your blessings" is good mental health.

Journaling is a tool for conflict preparation as well. Journaling can help sort out your emotions, prepare you to clearly articulate your needs and concerns, and look for win-win solutions.

Combat negative thinking! It is nonproductive. As a matter of fact, we recommend that people counteract every negative thought with something good -- at least better!  It may not change the facts of a situation, but it broadens perspective.

We can, and should, monitor how our thought processes are affecting our perceptions.  It is akin to the effect a sunny day may have versus a cloudy day. It has an effect on our outlook. The weather does not usually change important things in our lives for better or worse, but somehow, when the sun is shining life appears a little brighter.

All of the following journaling approaches have common veins: (1) Understanding yourself (2) Understanding others (3) Using resources to address challenges (4) Working through solutions.The journaling approaches serve as a prelude to the Ten Step Problem Solving Process.  The Ten Step Problem Solving Process is an effective prelude to effective dialogue in joint problem solving.

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Conflict is Never Easy!

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Conflict does not have to be the fault of anyone; sometimes circumstances arise that simply are the way they are. On the other hand, there are conflicts that are sometimes caused by another. No matter what the circumstance is, conflict rarely goes away unless it is productively addressed. If conflict is not resolved and hurtful communications continue, issues will remain unaddressed.  If not productively managed, conflict has the potential of being greatly destructive. Take heart!

Conflict may begin on a negative note, but conflict can end on a positive one. Do you realize that conflict has a purpose? For one, it serves as a warning measure.  More importantly, it serves as an avenue for change -- for growth and understanding.

No matter how skilled one is in dealing with conflict, conflict is never easy. Conflict is uncomfortable  because there is always an element of the unknown. Yet, conflict is an inevitable and necessary part of life. Without a measure of conflict we would never grow as individuals and relationships would never go beyond superficial. Without the elements of conflict, needed changes in the world around us would never happen.

 

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EFFECTIVE CONFRONTATION

Basic Principles to Remember:

(1) The 30 Second Rule: The first 30 seconds in a confrontation, or your response to being confronted, will determine whether or not productive dialogue will even begin.

(2) Remember your body language: 7% of communication is verbal and 93% is nonverbal. Nonverbal language includes facial expression, tone of voice, the positioning of your body, personal space, gestures, etc.  If the word content conflicts with the nonverbal message, the nonverbal message will control.

(3) Eye level: If you can, never approach from a higher level.  Sit down at a table.  Sitting down at a table is a great body diffuser alone.  It fosters respectful body posturing.

(4) Listen, Think and Respond: Listen for the full content of the sentence before responding.  Remember that once words are said, they cannot be taken back.

(5)  The 3 A's of effective confrontation:

AFFIRMATION: Affirm the value of the other individual and do not undermine the other in words or actions.  Also affirm the challenges the other person may be facing as well as your own. Affirm and respect the feelings of the other.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT:  Acknowledge the other person's opinion or position.  Even if you disagree with one another, you both are entitled to your own opinion.  Try to find a common ground to build from.

ACCOUNTABILITY:  Take responsibility for any areas in the situation that you need to be accountable for.  If you have said something or done something that has created a defense, acknowledge and be accountable.

(6) The Four C's:

Civil:  Be respectful.  If disrespect is shown, you will create an immediate defensive reaction and the wall of defense will not allow productive dialogue.

Clear: Listen, think and respond.  Slow down your speech and think before you speak.  Slow down your speech if you are upset.

Calm:  Keep breathing to keep your body relaxed.  If you do not breathe, your brain will not receive the needed oxygen to stay clear.  If you allow your body to tense and your emotions to escalate, you will not be able to productively dialogue.

Concise: Do not use exaggerations or false accusations.  Stay focused on the present and not the past.  Stay focused on the current situation.  Stay focused on solution more than on the problem.

(7) The Four W's

What are you feeling in clear, short, concise sentence.  Do not expect the other to accept or understand how you feel.  However, you do need to state how you feel in order to feel heard.

What is the situation that is causing you to feel the way you do.  Clearly articulate why you are responding the way you are.

What are you willing to do to address the situation.  If you do not state what you are willing to do to resolve a situation before making a request of the other, you will create a defense rather than foster dialogue.  A conflict never has only one side.

What are you asking of the other person in order to reach a resolution.  Look for a common ground that addresses the challenges and needs of all persons involved.

(8)  AARC PRINCIPLE: Bridge of Acceptance; Bridge of Connection, Bridge of Tolerance = ACT (What you think on, you will act upon.  Act upon; do not react)

Accept the right of another to have an opinion different from your own and treat the needs of the other with equal validity.

Appreciate the differences and build upon the strengths of the differences rather than depreciating the value of one another.  No two persons are alike.  It is what makes the world an interesting place to live.

Respect one another in all communication.  Remember that words can heal or hurt, destroy or mend.  Monitor your words:  Are they adding fuel to the fire?  Are they critical or demeaning?  Are they respectful?  Are you demanding or are you suggesting and respecting?

Communicate towards a mutual goal and solutions.  Do not focus on the problem.  Focus on solutions, while affirming, acknowledging and taking accountability.

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Conflict Resolution Styles

We all have different ways we respond to conflict.  We respond differently to situations and to people depending upon the dynamics of a relationship. We all are a blend of temperaments and conflict resolution styles. We have different perceptions, life experiences, talents and desires.

There is no right or wrong conflict resolution behavioral style.  It is simply our tendencies to react to others under stressful circumstances.  Much depends on our temperaments, our defense mechanisms, the degree of tension and stakes involved. We also react and respond to individuals differently.  Some people and circumstances bring out the best in us and others -- don't. Our style develops with life experience, the temperaments we were born with, our perceptions of the world around us, our communication style, and even our gender differences.

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Temperaments and Conflict Resolution

The purpose of the following articles is to help the reader understand how differences in personalities and temperaments can affect our responses to stress and how to work with those differences in respect to conflict resolution. Accepting one another's uniqueness without undermining the value of one another's differences can be of great value in conflict resolution. When we learn to work with our differences rather than against them, the task of resolving conflict becomes a little easier.

The temperament descriptions herein have been derived from various sources and we do not claim to be experts on personalities or any disorders.  These articles are intended to be a lighthearted look at our differences. Each temperament described herein has certain characteristic weaknesses and strengths. Let's see if you can guess your own temperament, as well as the temperaments of others important in your life.

The Sanguine Extrovert

When a Sanguine temperament person enters a room the energy level rises at least two degrees and a quiet tone in a group can suddenly turn into lively laughter and chatter. Sanguines have an appealing personality; they are talkative and usually are the life of the party. They possess a good sense of humor.

They have a memory for color. Their speech patterns are lively and colorful as well. They are demonstrative and expressive speakers. They have a changeable disposition and shift with the social atmospheric pressure whenever needed. They can be almost childlike by being cheerful, inquisitive, enthusiastic and energetic.

As a friend and a parent, they can make home life fun. A Sanguine parent will often be the favorite parent of choice with your children's friends. You can always tell there is a Sanguine parent in the house when the kids in the neighborhood, along with all dogs and cats, are waiting at the door for the Sanguine parent to come out and play.

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The Melancholy Introvert

The melancholy temperament is deeply thoughtful and sensitive.  They are usually a quieter individual and like to watch, look and listen before participating.  They love to analyze things and often enjoy graphs and charts.  Many teachers, poets, artists, songwriters and musicians have melancholy temperaments. They are artistic and appreciative of beauty.  They are sensitive to the needs of others and are often self-sacrificing. They are usually very gifted, creative and talented.

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The Choleric Extrovert

If you have a bossy, strong willed child, you have a child with strong choleric tendencies. A choleric temperament person is often fidgety. They are impatient, strong-willed and decisive. They are not easily discouraged.  They are tenacious and they do not give up.

The good thing about a choleric tempered person is they excel in almost any circumstance. They are born leaders. You can present them with almost any problem or challenge and rest assured that it will be taken care of. They revel in feeling needed and they appreciate affirmation of a job well done.

As a parent, they have a strong sense of right and wrong. They exert sound leadership in a family and are fiercely protective of those that they love.  They motivate children towards reaching goals and will provide needed leadership to see that those under their care succeed. They are fiercely loyal and will lay aside their own needs to ensure that those they love are cared for.

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