The following is a guest blog from Cortland Jones, one the parent educators at NFRC’s monthly co-parenting seminars.
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” – Jimi Hendrix
The power of love overcoming the love of power came to mind during a memorable conversation with a parent, inquiring how to best cope with a power struggle with the child’s other parent. The question included genuine disbelief, because no apparent conflict had been previously evident. Learning that a motion had been recently filed for full custody by the parent speaking with me led me to share this reply as a suggestion for moving forward with a co-parenting plan.
“If you pause for a moment, consider that the prior arrangement has now been adjusted to limit the access of the child’s other parent’s time with the child. No one would be in agreement to see his/her child less. There is grief associated with the transition — each parent understanding that an agreement about the future may not allow a familiar involvement in the life of the child.”
One of the children we work with was in a car accident with his parent. The parents were in a lot of conflict over access and schedules. The parent called his child’s other parent who arrived at the scene of the accident. While neither child or parent was injured, the car had to be towed. This eight year old child said, “My parent offered to take my [other] parent to our home to help out. Wow, that is so much better than fighting!”
My words confirmed the need for regard for the child’s other parent. In the heat of the moment, the power struggle of who will “win the war” in having full access or custody of the children is costly – mentally, emotionally and financially for family relationships.
Studies indicate the ‘grief’ associated with family transitions is similar to those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, experienced by soldiers returning from war. Somehow, the adults must be able to manage intense emotions, maintain integrity and maneuver beyond an obstacle course of past pain, problems and present anxieties, coming to an agreement about how they will co-parent.
Facilitating NFRC parent seminars in Howard and Prince George’s counties, I have shared with evening program participants. “Successful co-parenting begins when I can accept what is in my child’s best interest. My feelings are not always in the best interest of my child. If both adults are able to provide for the children when they arrive home from school, why am I pursuing full custody or withholding access to the child from the other adult?”
When your child looks at you, does he/she see someone trying to co-parent and consistently advocate for what is in his/her best interest?