Mindful Co-Parenting: An Introduction
Divorce can cause a lot of sleepless nights. Worries about joint property and investments, co-owned businesses, not to mention peace, happiness and the future can crowd the mind. But nothing ratchets up already-high anxiety more than worrying about your children. Fear about their feelings, their security and the potential long-term damage a divorce can cause can be overwhelming and even paralyzing. In fact, preoccupation about children can cause real health problems including stress, anxiety and high blood pressure.
But there is another way. I recently sat down with Dr. Jeremy Gaies to discuss collaborative divorce. Dr. Gaies is a clinical psychologist, family mediator, and author of two books, A Clear and Easy Guide to Collaborative Divorce and the co-author of Mindful Co-Parenting: A Child-Friendly Path through Divorce.
With nearly half of all marriages ending in divorce, children across the country are products of divorced families. That will have an enormous impact not just on individual families, but on our society as a whole. Are we doing right by our kids? Is there a way to improve outcomes?
Will the kids be ok?
Yes, But Only If…
Dr. Gaies is reassuring on that count. Kids of divorced parents, he says, will absolutely be ok, “the research shows that when parents work together that way the kids come out looking pretty much like kids with parents who didn’t divorce.” The key, he says, is parents working together.
One of the key pieces of the “happily divorced” puzzle is how you do it. He cites collaborative divorce as one of a number of approaches that foster a non-adversarial divorce. This sets the tone for everything: “if folks use a method that will be less adversarial, that will be more focused on the family, then the outcomes for children, and incidentally the outcomes for the parents, are better”.
Steps to Mindful Co-Parenting
In the book Dr. Gaies co-authored with Jim Morris about co-parenting, Mindful Co-Parenting: A Child-Friendly Path through Divorce, they discuss six key steps to mindful co-parenting.
- Putting the children first. This is the cornerstone of everything parents should do after divorce.
- “Focus forward”. There’s hurt, history and baggage in the past. Focusing forward keeps you from getting stuck there.
- Communicating effectively is the underpinning of any good relationship—it’s how you can work through problems, resolve disputes and ultimately understand each other.
- Honoring agreements established in a parenting plan. Create an outline for how you will co-parent. Then commit to it.
- Maintain boundaries. That means we take steps to make sure other people don’t intrude on your space, but also that we stay within the lines and don’t cross over into other people’s space.
- Manage emotions. No matter how angry or frustrated you are, manage your emotions. You can’t say things that might inadvertently hurt your co-parenting relationship.
Read the whole series about Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce:
- Key One of Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce: Putting the Children First
- Key Two of Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce: Focusing Forward
- Key Three of Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce: Communicating Effectively
- Key Four of Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce: Honoring Agreements
- Key Five of Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce: Maintaining Boundaries
- Key Six of Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce: Managing Emotions
- Mindful Co-Parenting with Dr. Gaies: A Recap