Excerpt from The Talk to Strangers
Pocket Guide for Parents
Building Toward Settlement from Day One… and Avoiding Minefields Along the Way
The early days of a divorce or separation, before lawyers are hired and lines are drawn in the sand, offer you and your co-parent an opportunity to establish a spirit of cooperation. The key to such cooperation is the ability to discuss issues in a productive way despite your new, stressful circumstances.
Take a few minutes to think about how you typically communicate with your co-parent. Then consider the following goals to help improve that communication:
- Keep your conversations under control by agreeing ahead of time what issues will be discussed.
- Focus on those current issues without dredging up old problems, conflicts or vulnerabilities.
- Don’t assume that your co-parent’s motivations or intentions are hostile.
- Remain calm, and try to see issues from your co-parent’s standpoint.
Try to persuade your co-parent to strive for these goals as well. But even if you can’t, try to achieve them yourself. Being restrained, empathetic and properly focused with your co-parent just might be contagious!
With the goal of improved communication in mind, you are ready to proceed to the next step toward settlement: the “parenting goal statement.”
Parenting Goal Statements
Parenting goal statements begin the new co-parenting relationship with a written list of shared beliefs that redirect the focus from the parents’ conflict to the children’s needs. They create momentum for constructive dialogue and can serve as the basis for future agreements. Your parenting goal statement should include most or all of the following:
- We will shield our children from our conflict.
- We will not use our children as messengers or confidants.
- We will keep child-related issues completely separate from financial ones.
- We will not criticize each other in front of our children.
- We will nurture our children’s love for us both.
- We will agree beforehand exactly what information we will share with the children.
- We will encourage our children to express their feelings, but we will make the decisions.
- We will share information about our children’s well-being, schoolwork, activities and schedules.
- We will make our best effort to have similar, consistent rules of conduct for the children.
- We will reassure our children that they will continue to have two parents who love them, and that the failure of our marriage is in no way a result of anything they have done or failed to do.
- We will begin resolving child related issues in a way that reflects the values stated above as soon as possible, because our children will suffer as long as those issues remain unresolved.