Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Being flexible

How do some parents end up in court with a holy war, while others just drop in to finalize paperwork and then get on with there lives?  There are probably a fair number of cases that deserve to be fought out, either because one parent or the other has taken a truly untenable position.  However, there are so many cases that are in Court and really shouldn't be.  My observation is that this comes down most frequently to flexibility.  And by flexibility, I am not referring to being flexible about a schedule.  I am referring to thinking in a flexible way.  For example, it is Friday at 6:00 and you are waiting for the other parent to pick up the kids.  You have, appropriately, made other plans for 6:30, so you are anxious because there is no other parent in sight at this point.  When the other parent shows up at 6:15, you are upset, maybe even angry, because you did not get a call and you are going to be late.  This is a big deal, and how come the other parent doesn't get it.  As any attorney will tell you, there is always another side to the story.  Maybe the delay was caused by work, a sick spouse, a jealous spouse, a family situation, or just forgetting the time.  Maybe a call wasn't made because it was known that the reaction would only be hostile, and why put up with that on the phone as well as in person.  That's two times.  Just go for the one big blow up.

In this case, both parents are more concerned about their own personal situations, and not the other party.  How to solve this?  Parents just have to be flexible in their thinking.  Give the other person a chance.  Yes, it is rude to not call, and, yes, you should explain to the other parent that not calling is upsetting, but do so calmly.  Yes, the anger builds up when there is no communication, but maybe you need to own up to the problem, especially if you are chronically late, and suggest a schedule that works.

The problem is that people get stuck in a relationship and do not understand that things have and will change.  Once you are no longer together as a couple, you will have many forces pulling on you that really make things difficult.  Taking a little time to understand that this is happening to the other party, too, will go a long way.  One of you has probably been the one to be primarily responsible for the children.  There is a learning curve.  But let me ask you this.  If you child was late and did not call, would you be angry or would you be worried?  Why? Why a different reaction?  Probably because you care about your child.  If you child were chronically late, would you just yell and him or her every time, or would you try to get to the root of the problem.

And finally, what do you think your children are observing?  They aren't watching a drama play out and then rooting for the good guy, which you probably presume is you.  They are looking at both of you and saying, oh, so that's how adults communicate with each other when they are mad at each other.  You should overhear some of the things that children say about parents who are in conflict constantly. Most of them do not understand why there is conflict, nor do they want to.  And they do not want to take sides.  They just want peace.  Give them peace.  Be flexible.  Try to approach each problem with a willingness to understand and resolve the problem.  Utilize a counselor if that will help.  Or a mediator.  Maybe this could lead to fewer court cases!  Or at least fewer protracted court cases!  Bad for lawyers! But good for kids!

What are some of your thoughts or experiences with this?