We frequently bemoan the polarizations in our culture- Republicans vs. Democrats; vaccinated vs. unvaccinated; us vs. them. Many say we are more divided than ever before. There is little conversation which involves true listening. I’m only waiting for you to finish so I can make my counter-argument. We are not seeking collaboration or compromise, but only to win. The New York Times describes this as “a poisonous cocktail of othering, aversion, and moralization.” As we all know, this has led to an erosion of politeness and even civility in our communities and families.
When a family experiences separation or divorce, there is this same seductiveness to “other” the other parent. Because of hurt, differences, legal wrangling, we can lose sight of what we have in common and focus on our differences. We can look at everything through the lens of an enemy. It is certainly true that the pain of a breakup makes it uncomfortable to be in the presence of the other parent. It is rarely true that the other parent has no redeeming value and that “we disagree about everything".
At Kids First, in our ICOPE (Intensive Co-Parenting Education) class we often assign parents an exercise of defining their hopes and dreams for their children. They must individually write five or more areas of these aspirations. As the other parent listens to these being read, they are amazed at how much they have in common. Sometimes there are even tears as they begin to shift from adversaries to a beginning partnership.
Our children are precious to us and parents want the same things- for them to be happy, successful, develop good values, etc. For this to happen we need to work together and avoid the distortion of polarization. Now if we can get the rest of our culture to work together in spite of differences…
Steve Young, LCSW, is a member of the Board of Directors at Kids First and has served as a respected program facilitator here for many years. He is a recently retired child and family therapist who helped found Touchstone Associates over thirty years ago.
“I learned how important our behavior (verbal and non-verbal) is, and how it impacts our children. How I can rise above all issues, and just focus on my babies.”
“What I learned was that the best thing I can do for my kids is to say something good about their other parent!”
“I appreciated the focus on how many different relationships my/our kids are dealing with.”
“I learned I am in control of my behavior; I can’t control my co-parent!”
“I received validation; it helped to know that I’m not alone. I appreciated the section on preparing for court – that is coming up soon and I am scared.”