NEWS: How to be a Better Parent by Erin Silver of the Globe and Mail

2015.April.16.

The Globe and Mail

How To Be a Better Parent

by Erin Silver

Excerpt from article:

“Ari’s sixth birthday party was perfect. Despite a late winter snowstorm, all his little friends made it to an indoor baseball stadium to play ball. There were baseball plates and balloons and a chocolate cake iced with green grass and miniature baseball characters running the bases. There were even ring pops – World Series rings – that turned all the kids’ smiles blue and red, my boys, Ari and his four-year-old brother, Josh, included.

Although it was a great day for my kids, I nearly had a panic attack before the party began. This was the first time since my divorce from their father, Shawn, that we held a party that included not just me and Shawn but also Shawn’s girlfriend and my boyfriend and his daughter. We made a strange extended family. It would be awkward, but we were determined to show that we were somehow, in some way, still a family. We wanted our kids to know that divorce didn’t have to be a dirty word.

That party couldn’t have happened had it not been for one significant process: mediation.

Although our divorce was nearing completion, we realized that if we wanted to parent as a unit over the long haul, we needed help learning to work together.

When we separated nearly three years ago, it felt like an apocalypse. We fought constantly. Days would go by when we didn’t speak; it was too painful to hear his voice. During stressful times and legal proceedings, our hatred for each other was palpable. For weeks, we avoided eye contact at pickups and dropoffs – we literally couldn’t stand the sight of one another.

Yet, our kids bound us together for life, even if our vows didn’t. We had intended to teach our children to ride their bikes in front of our home, but after we split, our goal changed. We had to learn to get along well enough to walk our boys down the aisle at their weddings.”

Excerpt from article:

“Raising kids really is a job for two people – at least – and I was resentful that I had to suddenly juggle bills and house repairs and a job and kids and dating all at once. My life had been turned upside down.

But if there was one thing we could agree on when we were too angry to agree on anything, it was that we needed help. Several months ago, we met with Stella Kavoukian, a mediator and therapist who works with children and adults experiencing a variety of issues, including separation and divorce. Our hope was to have her help us resolve disputes and improve our communication.

We had a stack of issues to sort through. There were feelings of aggravation and mistrust after we legally ended our marriage. We had said a rash of unkind things to one another that we couldn’t take back. We struggled with the concept of having to raise kids together when it felt like we no longer even knew one another.

Seeing a mediator was an emotional process, but we weren’t capable of figuring out how to do this divorce thing right on our own. Before our first joint session, we each met with her separately to explain our concerns. At our first appointment together, Kavoukian laid down the ground rules, giving each of us a chance to speak and explain our perspective before the other could jump in. It was hard, at times, to keep us both in line, but no matter how many tissues we used, we were determined to see each session through to the end.”

Excerpt from article:

“Divorce is difficult and painful,” Kavoukian said in an interview. “Regardless of who initiated the separation, it’s a huge loss for each parent, as well as their children. Similar to when one loses a close friend or family member, there is much grieving involved. There is also usually quite a bit of apprehension, if not fear, regarding the future.”

It’s hard to cope – and to co-parent well – when you’re balancing these feelings with meeting your children’s needs. Kids do as well as their parents do,” Kavoukian said. “We are their role models. The better that parents are able to communicate and resolve issues, the better their kids will be able to manage their own relationships throughout life.”

Excerpt from article:

“Today, we function more like business partners than friends, but we have added a few nice touches. We take the kids to buy one another gifts for our birthdays, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. We sort out holidays easily enough so that our kids can spend vacation time with each of us. We trick or treat together every Halloween; neither of us can bear the thought of missing out simply because it’s “not our day.” We send one another photos of the kids, so that neither of us is excluded even from the parts of their lives that we are technically missing. And a few times a year, we sit side by side, or with a chair in between us, through their hockey games and school holiday concerts, waving to our boys.

All this constant communication and compromise, all this thoughtfulness, makes us more functional in divorce than we were in marriage.”

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE: How to Be a Better Divorced Parent by Erin Silver, The Globe and Mail.