This article is from Carol Mapp, a Collaborative Law Institute of Texas member and Arlington-based mental health professional with Integrated Healthworks.
The day we honor Dr. Martin Luther King is right around the corner. I am reminded of one of his many quotes about peace; one of my favorites is: “Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek but a means by which we arrive at that goal”
I worked for many years in a bully prevention program teaching children and parents about making peaceful decisions. The root of many programs dealing with respect is based in parental modeling and positive mutual regard. These curricula are based in the recognition that to bring about long lasting positive change, parents need to gain a better understanding of child friendly ways to modulate responses to conflict that enhances their child needs and emotional development.
Parents who take a combative approach with the other parent in front of the children create a tense and emotionally insecure environment for children to live and learn in. This tension causes children to feel anxious and insecure and increases their tendency to be resistant, disobedient, and reactive.
Learning about peace is an ongoing process. Co-parents have many opportunities to model peaceful behavior in front of their children. When parents demonstrate warmth and appropriate connection with others, children develop healthy communication patterns, increase emotional and behavioral stability, and improve problem-solving skills to address future situations.
Some ideas to promote peace within the co-parent relationship include:
1. Clear and patient communication models a mature form of communication that fosters active thinking and problem solving skills.
2. Set limits and boundaries. Recognize your feelings as an adult. Decide what behavior you will accept.
3. Utilize flexible and adaptive thinking by asking questions and giving appropriate choices
4. Mutually solve problems. Parents can utilize a decision process with children and co-parent. It can be as simple as: define problem, identify possible solutions, evaluate alternatives, choose a solution, and evaluate results.
5. Put yourself in the other parent’s shoes. Don’t just judge the behavior, but the needs behind the behavior.
6. Be calm, smile, be kind every time you interact with the other parent. Yes. Every. Time.
7. Give the other parent some space. The exchange is not the time to discuss heated topics.
8. Utilize specific words to promote goodwill and kindness by adding “peaceful” vocabulary in your child’s life such as the words: forgiveness, caring, sharing, and tolerance.
9. Show children how to handle strong emotions. Anger, sadness, and frustration are a natural part of life. These emotions are a natural part of life. Show children how to hold their tongue, calm down, and articulate needs.
10. Show gratitude when the other parent shows kindness to you.
Remember that childhood is fleeting. Every moment you can spend with your children is a teachable moment. Peace is a lifelong lesson.