For this exercise, both parents/ caregivers will need some paper and a pen and to answer the following questions. At the end, you can take turns hearing what the other has written and acknowledging their thoughts. You can be clear if you don’t agree but still show that you’re working hard to understand and acknowledge the other’s perspective. For instance, “I don’t agree that my role and responsibility is to ….. but I hear and understand that you wish that I would do more … and less …. “ :
When this incident happened (or when this common pattern happens), my biggest concern about it is …….
Other concerns I hold about this incident / pattern are …..
Looking at this incident / pattern within the context of past incidents, brings up the thoughts that …. And the feelings of …..
Your greatest hopes for positive change
When this incident/ pattern happens, it reminds me that my greatest hope for positive change is that my child will choose to …… or get better at ……
When this incident / pattern happens, what I view to be the blocks / challenges that get in the way of my co-parent and I working constructively together as a team is the pattern of ……
For example, when ……. (reminder to be specific and to avoid assumptions of intention or character judgments e.g. “you don’t care … “, “you’re such an aggressive person that .. “)
When this incident / pattern happens, what sometimes works well in helping us work constructively together as a team is ….
The vision / hopes that I’m holding for myself in contributing towards positive change are ….
For instance, “I’m hoping that we can help our child learn to better identify/ express / manage …. So that instead of them getting into the old negative pattern of ……. That instead they would ……… “
And for that positive change to happen, I see my role and responsibility to be ………
What you most want / need from your partner in these incidents
And for that positive change to happen, I see my partner’s role and responsibility to be …… (which they may or may not agree with)
And for positive change to happen, what I most need from my co-parent is …..
What my partner most needs from me
And for positive change to happen, I imagine that what my partner most needs from me is …..
For positive change to happen, what my partner describes to me that he/ she most needs from me is ….. (to answer when all other questions have been answered on paper/ document and read out to each other in turn).
Beginning to bring all the information together
Get a large piece of paper and write down on it everything from the written information and following discussion that you both can agree on.
For instance, “we both agree that we share the hope and vision of our child better managing / expressing / identifying …. “ or “we both agree that we both want our child to feel supported and cared about even when they …. “.
Co-creating a plan
Work together to avail of all the collective information from your own and your co-parent’s answers to co-create a constructive plan on how to deal with these situations that you are both happy to agree to.
You’ll need a plan for what you can both do more or less of to help prevent these incidents / patterns reoccurring.
You’ll also likely need a plan for how these situations can be responded to in the moment in a more constructive way.
Draw on the Centre, Connect, Communicate model
To make sure both co-parents are taking responsibility to centre yourselves, connect with your child, and hopefully maintain connection with each other as cooperative caring compassionate team mates towards each other.
And keep in mind that you’re aiming to communicate with your child in a way that’s neither authoritarian or permissive, neither demanding or dismissive/ minimizing, in a way that helps your child better manage their emotions and then (when more calm) think through the situation in a constructive manner to identify what might have worked better or how a similar situation could be dealt with better in the future.
Genevieve Simperingham ~ www.peacefulparent.com