Mediation: Helping divorced parents learn to work together
In her recent article published in The Globe and Mail, Erin Silver speaks candidly about how hard she has found it to co-parent since her divorce. There were times when she and her ex-husband “avoided eye contact at pickups”, and “fought constantly.” The separation “felt like an apocalypse,” Silver writes.
But by her son’s sixth birthday party, nearly three years after her divorce, Silver recounts how her and her ex-husband, their new romantic partners in attendance, stood in solidarity to show their children that “divorce didn’t have to be a dirty word.” How did this couple transition to positive co-parenting ?
“That party couldn’t have happened had it not been for one significant process: mediation,” Silver explains.
Family mediation helped Silver and her ex resolve disputes and improve their communication as divorced parents. “It was an emotional process,” Silver acknowledges, “but we weren’t capable of figuring out how to do this divorce thing right on our own.”
The couple worked with Stella Kavoukian, a mediator and therapist who works with children and adults experiencing a variety of issues, including separation and divorce. Kavoukian laid down ground rules to help the couple communicate effectively, and guided them as they worked their way towards a new relationship as co-parents instead of spouses.
Kavoukian’s advice to redefine their relationship in this way struck a chord with Silver: ”She suggested that Shawn and I learn to let go of the past and build a new relationship with one another on a whole other level. Thinking about things in that way – respecting and trusting one another as co-parents, rather than distrusting each other as former spouses – is what finally enabled us to move forward.”
Today, Silver reflects that she and her ex “function more like business partners than friends,” working always to put their children’s needs first and maintaining constant communication and compromise in order to make sure those needs are met.
Kavoukian encourages this viewpoint as one of her tips for co-parenting well: “Whenever you are unsure what to do, make your children and their needs your guiding light.”
Kavoukian also stresses the importance for parents to try to avoid a combative separation achieved through the legal system: “Going this route, apart from being emotionally and financially draining, forces parents to take opposing positions rather than work collaboratively,” she says. “Philosophically, this is a poor place to start when trying to work toward a child’s best interests.”
Silver observes that the new co-parenting relationship that she and her ex have cultivated makes them “more functional in divorce than [they] were in marriage,” and she credits family mediation for helping to build this new-found cooperation.
Visit our ‘Process’ tab at silbertfamilylaw.com to learn more about mediation.
To read more of Kavoukian’s tips for co-parenting and to read Erin Silver’s original article, click here.