In a piece over at The Globe and Mail, Erin Silver writes about her experience as a divorced parent who, along with her ex, sought mediation that helped redefine what it means to be a family. Silver recounts the first birthday party for her son that included both divorced parents as well as each parents' new partners:
"We made a strange extended family. It would be awkward, but we were determined to show that we were somehow, in some way, still a family. We wanted our kids to know that divorce didn’t have to be a dirty word."
As far as divorces go, Silver and her ex-husband were in a relatively enviable position. Despite mutual contempt, neither appeared to be the victim of abuse and each still wanted to play roles in their kids' lives. Once the divorce was near completion, they both decided it would be best to parent as "a unit" moving forward. The divorcees attended mediation, buried a number of painful hatchets, and improved their understanding and communication with each other. It was extremely emotional and often painful, says Silver, but it looks like it was worth it:
"Today, we function more like business partners than friends, but we have added a few nice touches. We take the kids to buy one another gifts for our birthdays, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. We sort out holidays easily enough so that our kids can spend vacation time with each of us. We trick or treat together every Halloween; neither of us can bear the thought of missing out simply because it’s 'not our day.' We send one another photos of the kids, so that neither of us is excluded even from the parts of their lives that we are technically missing.
And a few times a year, we sit side by side, or with a chair in between us, through their hockey games and school holiday concerts, waving to our boys."
This is a terrific story that I hope you take a few moments to read (linked again below). The main takeaway here is that it's entirely possible for divorced parents to come to terms with their situation and build a mutual understanding for the benefit of the kids. It'll take therapy and a willingness to put yourself in an uncomfortable position, but the eventual benefits of redefining your family situation will more than make up for it.
Read more at The Globe and Mail.
Below, author Bruce Feiler discusses lessons learned while researching a new book on the building blocks of household happiness:
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