From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Co-Parenting at its Best!
I recently spoke with a friend of mine who lamented how sad she was that her Mother had
not attended their son's wedding. Its a terrible thing when a Grandparent misses such a
landmark occasion in their grandchild's life. There are many legitimate reasons why people
miss family events, but for her, it was simply to avoid being in the same room with her
ex-husband, the child's grandfather. Now it is possible to understand this reasoning if
the "wounds" of divorce are fresh, but in this case, the divorce took place over
25 years ago. In this family, the feud now spanned a quarter century, and affected three
generations. What a price to pay!
In my business, we always say, "divorce is the end of a marriage, but not the end
of the family". Co-parenting is a permanent commitment. How then should people
resolve the pain of divorce so that they can resume the job of parenting in a civilized
manner? Here are a few thoughts on the matter.
- Step into your child's shoes. Each time a divorce occurs, children of
all ages are faced with torn loyalties. A burden is placed upon each child to endure their
parents' misbehavior, convince each parent that they are still loved, and survive their
own grief over the loss of their "family togetherness". At a time when the child
is experiencing this devastating change in their homelife, parents are rarely available to
provide emotional comfort. As such, the scars of a parental divorce can create permanent
emotional damage. Parents who are invested in their childs' mental health and emotional
- Decide to end the civil (or uncivil) war. War is still not healthy for
children and other living things. Children whose parents are divorced live in a battle
zone. They "walk in a mine field", having to monitor what they say, they are
often afraid to even mention the other parent's name, and they stand ready to be
interrogated at any moment. The two people who decided together to get married, decided
together to have children and then decided to divorce, must also be the ones to decide to
end the war.
- Stop blaming each other. Ending the war is one of those things that is
easier said than done, but one key element is to stop blaming each other. Nobody likes to
be wrong. Nobody likes to be at fault. Nobody likes to blamed or reminded of past
wrongdoings. It takes a great deal of effort to forgive, but through forgiveness, there is
much to be gained. When ex-spouses forgive each other, they become free to enjoy life
again, and free to enjoy their children.
- Step one: Call a Truce! As long as ex-spouses are invested in their
feud, they are limited in their ability to focus on their children (or grandchildren). Our
families are great sources of love, pleasure and support. Parents deserve to celebrate
their childrens' accomplishments, growth and rites of passage. Don't deny yourself these
opportunities. If you have the courage, create a bridge between yourself and your former
spouse. Perhaps, invite them (and their new spouses) for dinner. Get together with your
children and celebrate this new era in the family's history. Put down your guns, start
fresh, and get to know each other all over again.
Some friends of mine recently accomplished this truce. Father and step-mother invited
mother and step-father to dinner, along with their children. They issued the invitation
and expressed their desire to "lay down their arms" and get reacquainted. They
described the immediate awkwardness of the situation and said that it reminded them of the
time when the in-laws first got together. Many years prior, there was a dinner between two
other sets of parents who came together proudly around their children, and worked hard to
get to know one another "for the childrens' sake". In later years, these same
two couples shared the same grandchildren. They never became best friends, but their
mutual respect allowed for amicable family reunions and family harmony.
In families, the circle of life continues. Divorce does not have to be a dead end. Our
children are important to all of us. Share this article with someone "you used to
love", and take a step toward completing the family circle once again. Relationships
change... often for the better!
ęCopyright, 1995, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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Last Updated October 18, 1998 by Gary M. Grandon,