On our recent episode of the Akiona Law Podcast, our guest wisely said, “When your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” At Akiona Law, we understand family law attorneys need a variety of tools to successfully navigate the divorce process. One of those tools being emotional intelligence. This brings us to our discussion about developing and strengthening the tools needed as a successful co-parent, such as, communication skills.
Despite your issues with the other parent, shaming and blaming have an equal and opposite reaction; it isn’t practical. Sometimes a child is struggling going back and forth between mom’s and dad’s, and the parents blame one another for it. When our podcast guest, divorce mediator Kathleen Royer, experienced this (in one of her family law cases) she discussed with the parents their child had been diagnosed with a neurological disorder, which may be the reason why their child struggled to adapt to the changes. Though this is one example, it shows open and honest communication— including active listening—may help parents identify the true nature of the problem. Additionally, conflict between parents is likely more damaging to children than the actual divorce itself.
What Is Reactive Co-Parenting?
Parenting plans are excellent tools, but many of its provisions come from a “crime and punishment” viewpoint. Parenting plans are great at establishing boundaries, but they will not make someone a better co-parent. Instead, what often happens is one parent “reacts” to whether the other parent is following the parenting plan. To succeed as co-parents after the divorce is final, parents must shift away from seeing each other as adversaries to seeing one another as proactive co-parents. What does this shift look like? Proactive co-parenting may mean parents sit down with one another, a couple of times a year, and discuss, “What’s coming up with our children? Do we have a plan for sports, summer vacations, holidays?” The list can go on and on; essentially, all those different variables that come into play when managing children’s schedules. Proactive co-parenting means: stepping back, developing a plan, and creating communication protocols to build a firm foundation.
One communication protocol is using a transition email. Your child may experience things (positive or negative) with you that may carry over when they transition to the other parent’s care. Using a transition email such as, “Johnny broke up with his girlfriend this weekend and is having a really hard time,” is a great way to maintain connection and continuity between your home and the other parent’s for your child’s benefit.
An Unexpected Shift
After your divorce, you must shift from a spouse’s mindset to a parent’s. Spouses develop a shorthand for communication, which is off the table when you divorce. Conflict survives when there are unmet or unrealistic expectations. Setting expectations is an important part of effective communication. Don’t fall back on the excuse you are an adult and will figure it out when a problem surfaces. Instead, favor the proactive co-parenting strategies discussed in the previous section. Identifying a skill is the first step in developing it. The next step is practicing it!
Speak with a Family Law Attorney at Akiona Law, PLLC
The things discussed here are from Lani Akiona’s interview with attorney Kathleen Royer on the Akiona Law Podcast. You can find that episode here. Kathleen is a family law lawyer, co-parenting coach, parenting coordinator, mediator, and President of the Washington State Chapter of AFCC (Association of Family and Conciliation Courts). During the show, we also discussed the importance of having the right resources to guide your journey as a co-parent. Lani and Kathleen spoke about the importance of The Co-Parenting Handbook by Karen Bonnell and Kristin Little. Karen has been featured on the podcast. You can listen to that episode here. You can order a copy of her invaluable book here. If you have further questions about family law issues, contact Akiona Law to schedule a consultation with divorce lawyer Lani Akiona.