By Michael Aurit, JD, MDR
Every day, I sit across the mediation table from divorcing or separated parents who disagree with one another. Both believe they know what’s best for their children. In many cases, the disagreement results in conflict, making the conversation even more challenging.
Inevitably, one parent will shout, “We will never agree on the _________________________________!” Fill in the blank with one or more of the following:
- parenting time schedule
- child support amount
- school the kids will attend
- way to divide extracurricular activity expenses
- holiday schedule
- approved babysitters for the kids
- limits around traveling with the kids
I feel for them with my whole heart in that moment, knowing they are likely feeling a deep sense of fear, anger, or even resentment. Of course, they want to reach an agreement. Almost all parents want to find an answer. Co-parents understand that their unresolved conflict causes them pain and inflicts emotional suffering on their children. They want to protect their children from the harm of litigation.
But, they often don’t know how to find an agreement. They don’t know how to productively talk with one another, how to develop creative options together, or how to remain solution-focused while experiencing intense emotions.
More important than any co-parenting tip, strategy, or skill is a courageous belief that there is always an answer in the face of any disagreement.
In difficult moments, I remind them: “You can agree. You are both capable of finding a solution. It’s not always easy, but there is always an answer. No matter how difficult the problem seems, if you focus on solutions and keep moving forward, you will get there.”
Parents find workable agreements when they both believe there is an answer. In the end, separation doesn’t cause long-term emotional problems in children— ongoing conflict after separation does. The foundation of healthy co-parenting conflict resolution is the fundamental belief that there is always an answer. Maintaining this belief with resilience is the essence of courageous co-parenting. It’s not always easy to find a mutually-acceptable answer, but where it’s possible, parents can find their way.
Courageous Co-Parenting is Raising Arizona Kids’s monthly column for separating or divorced parents to learn conflict resolution skills, strategies, and attitudes for healthy co-parenting. These concepts apply to all parents. Please feel free to share the column with your co-parent.
Michael Aurit, JD, MDR, is a Professional Mediator and Co-Founder of The Aurit Center for Divorce Mediation in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is President of The Academy of Professional Family Mediators. He is also an Adjunct Professor at The Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University School of Law and Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law. Michael is married to Karen Aurit, and they live in Phoenix, Arizona with their three and five-year-old daughters. Michael can be reached at email@example.com. To learn more, visit auritmediation.com