Saturday, January 19, 2008

Divorce Parenting and Power Struggles

During our parenting classes, parents often report that they are having a power struggle with their co-parent that they need help with. Power struggles are very common in relationships. Often, divorcing parents will continue a power struggle from their marriage years after their divorce is final. The first step toward eliminating power struggles is awareness. Some parents experience this as, "When I say ‘up,’ he says ‘down’”; “when I say ‘black,’ she says ‘white.’" When you identify this kind of pattern, at first just observe it in action. This observing can lead you to some very interesting and creative strategies for interrupting the escalating cycle.

Compromise is another essential tool for the positive parent. It means being willing to set aside some of your tightly held beliefs about your children and what is best for them. This is easier said than done. On the other hand, it is not uncommon for compromise to be contagious. Often, when one person begins to compromise, (especially in a relationship previously defined by power struggles), the other person begins to follow suit. Parents often ask how long they should compromise in the face of the parent who refuses to meet in the middle. Many parents in this situation justifiably continue to compromise, as the best way to address their children’s best interests. Other parents find it necessary to stand up to the other parent and demand some concessions. You have to take what you know about your co-parent and the specific issue in question, and make the best decision for your family.

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