Dealing With Divorce Can Be Easier When You Think Like a Kindergartener

dealing with divorce like a kindergartenerI am always trying to find a unique twist for my posts.

Something that sets my ideas apart.

Thinking about this post, common expressions I hear from parents in mediation kept running through my mind.

Statements like:

He’s so demanding.

She’s so controlling.

He’s rude.

She’s bossy.

Hmmm…I wonder what mind-blowing advice I could provide about dealing with divorce?

Ideas for Dealing with Divorce Co-Parenting Issues

I was discussing this with my wife and throwing out ideas.

Should I write about active listening skills, I asked?

Or the difference between positions and interests?

Perhaps a post about relationship boundaries?

She turned and gave me the most jaw-dropping, duh-why-didn’t-I-think-of-that answer.

A topic I had never even considered.

Something so obvious, so universal, that we take its power for granted.

So What Did She Say Already?

How about how to be polite?
You know, say please and thank you more.

And you know what, as I paused to think about her suggestion, mediation after mediation flashed through my mind.

I thought of a mother wishing the father would show appreciation and thank her for making sure their child honored him every Father’s Day.

I thought of a bitter and resentful father who wished the mother would politely suggest, rather than demand, decisions that were hers to legally make.

I thought of an email exchange where one parent graciously deferred to the other parent’s idea, and then later blew up because she was never thanked.

That’s right, the “magic words” that we learned in pre-school, please & thank you, hold such power and influence that they can make or break a relationship!

Why Kindergarteners can be “Smarter” than Adults Dealing with Divorce!

We teach our five year olds to say “thank you” after someone does something kind for them.

We implore them to appreciate kindness.

We chastise them when they forget, mumble, or complain.

Yet, adults overlook kindness all the time.

And sadly, the longer the relationship, more is taken for granted, and less appreciation is acknowledged.

In marriages this dynamic can slowly erode warmth, and lead to resentment.

In co-parenting relationships, this can scuttle efforts to work together for the benefit of the children.

How to be as Smart as a Kindergartener

Just as I have seen relationships deteriorate when basic niceties are missing, I have seen efforts to show more courtesy strengthen the most strained relationships.

I think of a defensive mother who opened up to collaboration after her co-parent started the mediation by thanking her for helping out last week.

I think of an impatient father slow down after his wife politely asked him to be patient with her during the mediation session.

I think of a resentful husband write an email more carefully after he received a surprisingly respectful email from his divorced wife.

3 Adult Strategies for Implementing the “Magic Words”

1.     Avoid presumptions and entitlement.

Just because someone does something nice on a regular basis does not mean it should be expected, or go unnoticed. If your wife stays at home alone with the kids every Thursday so you can play cards with the boys, thank her…every Thursday.

2.     Avoid relationship laziness.

If you need something from upstairs you can either tell your eight year old to go get it, or you can ask him to please go get it. The former conveys that being bossy and controlling is the norm; the latter engenders goodwill and conveys that respect is a core value of positive relationships.

3.     Avoid assumptions.

Do not assume that your co-parent knows that you appreciate how hard she’s working to make ends meet. Tell her. Regularly.

As kindergarteners have been told for generations, remember to mind your P’s and Q’s.

Please.

Thank you.

Please comment below — I would love to hear from you!

LINKEDIN USERS:  LinkedIn does not have the capability for your comments on LinkedIn groups to appear on the original blog post. If you are commenting on a LinkedIn group would you mind copying the comment directly on to the blog so my other readers who might be dealing with divorce can benefit from your ideas and reactions? Thank you, thank you, thank you!! 

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About the Author ()

I help families resolve conflict through family mediation and divorce mediation in Massachusetts. My services include mediation for co-parenting disputes, marriage problems, separation and divorce, parents and teenagers, and family conflicts. The goal of my mediator's blog is to help teach or remind readers of helpful communication and conflict resolution techniques that can be used in their relationships. I live in Natick, MA with my wife, son and dog and mediate throughout the Metrowest Boston region. Please note that my name is spelled Ben Stich, not Ben Stitch.

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