Guest Author, Anne Kass, - a retired District Judge of Albuquerque, New Mexico
Psychologists report that it often takes a crisis to motivate people to change and grow in any significant way. The nature of most human beings apparently is to live in rather superficially as long as life is smooth and easy. Only when difficulties occur do many of us take the time to reflect and improve.
In view of this, a group of Albuquerque psychologists is considering a major change in the way its members assess custody disputes.
They propose to stop viewing those disputes as tragedies that need to be ended as soon as possible. Rather, a custody dispute will be viewed as an opportunity to motivate one or both parents to learn how to be better parents.
The specific challenge to the divorcing parents will be whether either or both are able to learn the new parenting skills necessary for successful co-parenting after divorce.
If both are able to learn the skills, the custody dispute will disappear. If only one turns out to be educable, that parent will most likely become the primary parent, perhaps a parent with sole custody. If neither parent is able to acquire the new skills, the children may need access to counselors and adults other than their parents in the hope the children will learn the interpersonal skills that have escaped their parents.
Instead of evaluating the parents as they do now, the psychologist's role will be to coach and observe.
It is expected that parents will need at least six months of training and practice to learn the co-parenting techniques. The new skills would include such things as:
2) sincerely supporting a good relationship between the child and the other parent;
3) not speaking disparagingly about the other parent and insisting friends and family not denigrate the absent parent as well;
4) not questioning a child about the other parent and not listening to a child criticize the other parent;
5) sharing information about the children but also gather information for oneself and not be dependant on the other parent;
6) the ability to resolve disagreements respectfully and to accept and implement an outcome that was not preferred, and
7) the ability to move clothing, toys, etc. between two homes with little conflict and to cheerfully fix problems that occur when some thing isn't where it is needed;
8) the ability to pay support and other expenses promptly and pleasantly.
This new approach seems to be a variation of the proverb: Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.
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