(Try to) Maintain objectivity at all times.
Before a dispute turns into a genuine conflict, both parent’s need to decide what action they want to take and what consequence they will face because of it. Moving forward, hiring an attorney and take an ex back to court will have one consequence. Making concessions and working out an agreement will make for another. You will hope that the direction you take is the one best suited to meet the needs of your child.
You will have yourself, your friends and your parents perhaps to guide you through this thought process. For especially young people, friends and parents will want you to distance yourself from your ex. It is not their fault for they love and want the best for you. From their point of view the best thing for you is to not communicate with your ex about anything.
Let’s say that you have been told that your ex had an overnight guest over last night during his visitation weekend with the children. Your children also tell you that this overnight guest was a lady they never met before. Your friends immediately blurt out “that son of a bitch…”….”I can’t believe that he just got divorced and is moving in some other girl. Your parents say “Who knows who this person is, she could have been a drug addict.” You walk to the phone to call a family law attorney to get an emergency injunction to prevent your ex from engaging in such conduct….. Then you pause.
Over the long term, the one person who most likely has the best chance of being objective is you. You have the best working knowledge of your ex, their wants and wishes, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. Before deciding if your disagreement is a bona fide dispute go through a check list and see what you come up with.
- Do I know all the facts of what’s going on?
- From what I am being told¸ is this something that I see my ex being involved with, or doing?
- What does my ex thing about the situation at hand/will he be truthful with me about what is going on?
- If I confront my ex about the situation what will he or her response be?
- Do I trust my ex that he will listen to my concerns?
- Do I trust my ex to be honest and address my concerns and truly change what he’s doing?
- Is it in my child’s best interest that I interfere and modify the periods of visitation my ex has?
- What is your plan of action, how are you going to handle the situation?
By calling your ex you discover that the person staying the night was your ex’s Sister Sally who arrived late from the airport. What your friends believed was the great crisis of the day was no issue at all, and you just saved yourself needless worry by contacting your ex. Do you see the importance of communicating? Do you see the importance of being objective?
Now, let us say you discover that your ex truly did have some unrelated person staying the night at their house. Not assuming the worst puts you in control of the situation when you tell your ex “Surely you do not think it’s a good idea have some girl at your house that the kids never met before.” You give the appearance of being fair, objective and can control your emotions much easier. Talking to your ex this way puts you in control of the situation and places your ex in a no win situation. What can your ex truly say to disagree with you on how you feel at that moment?
By effectively communicating you find that you are now in control of how to you handle difficult situations. You have shown your ex that you have presumed that what was being said could possibly not be true, because you think that your ex would never place your children in such a situation. It is up to your ex, through their actions, to lose the trust that you have placed in them.
Matt Sossi @kidsfirstparentssecond.org