The Summertime Parent

While most children were anxiously waiting for the school year to end, Jonathan was simply anxious. Although most boys loved traveling across the country during vacation, Jonathan dreaded the annual trek to see his father. It wasn’t that he didn’t love his father or enjoy being with him. It was the children from his father’s new marriage that he didn’t like. He felt like he was no longer his father’s son and that his dad loved them more than him. To top it off, he wouldn’t get to see his friends or his mother for almost ten weeks.


Jonathan’s parents had divorced, and his father had moved to another state. He only saw his father during Christmas and summer vacations. His father would send birthday cards and occasional letters, and with the invention of email, he could type off a quick note anytime he or his dad wanted. But that didn’t make the situation easier for him. In some ways, it only made a hard situation harder.

It was no summer picnic for Jonathan’s father either. Instead of feeling excitement about seeing his son, he felt anger and resentment that was often channeled toward his ex-wife whom he blamed for the custody arrangements. “I never realized how hard divorce could be,” exclaimed Jonathan’s father, “and getting remarried has only made it worse. Now I am stuck in the middle of two sets of frustrated families.”

Wounds of Divorce
Regardless of the reasons, divorce hurts! Any separation between two connected people will cause emotional wounds when pulled apart. Like any wound, the traumatized area must be cleaned and cared for if healing is going to be possible. The more dirt slung between divorced parents, through verbal and physical fights or nasty legal battles, the more infection in the relationship between parent and child will develop.


Jonathan’s father moved across the country because of a great job offer…or at least, that was what he told everyone. The job was great, but the real reason was that he couldn’t get along with Jonathan’s mother and just needed to leave and start over again. Unfortunately, that left Jonathan behind. “In retrospect, I would have stayed, regardless of the situation,” admits Jonathan’s father. “At the time, the hurt was too much to stand. I didn’t want the divorce, and his mother’s new boyfriend was just salt in the wound. Rather than continue to argue and waste money on lawyers, I decided to leave.”


Parents who have a long-distance relationship must address the wounds of divorce. Cleaning out a wound is painful but necessary. Similarly, letting go of old hurts and memories is important for healing and growth. Jonathan relates that his first summer with his dad in his new home was fun: “We went out to eat, the movies, miniature golf, and then my dad started pumping me for information on my mom and her boyfriend, when I just wanted to be with my dad.”

When parents do not deal with their own issues, children suffer all over again and their wounds are not allowed to heal. “Summer time parents” need to take care of themselves throughout the entire year so that they can enjoy the time with their children. Parents can care for themselves by consulting with a professional, developing a strong network of friends, exercising regularly and eating right.

Reassurances and Permissions
Major changes are frightening to young children. The loss of a parent creates fears of loss of food and shelter, being forgotten, attacked, punished, or unloved. While this might seem irrational to a parent, it is a real concern for the child. Children need reassurances that these things will continue to
be in their lives and, most importantly, that they are loved. Don’t make promises that things will go back to the way they were or be just as good. That is one promise parents can’t deliver, and it breaks down a child’s trust. Simply offer a verbal hug of hopefulness that the future will be secure and safe. In addition to reassurance, children often need permission to let go of the guilt that attaches itself to living with the “school-year” parent and visiting the summer parent. Both parents need to tell the child that it is okay that he/she are going. Be honest about missing the child but save the wailing and cloth-ripping for another time and place.

Permission giving helps to untangle the loyalty binds that children get caught in after divorce. Don’t ask a lot of questions about the other parent and his/her life back home. If the child wants to talk, fine, but don’t start an investigation and definitely keep your opinion of the other parents life to
yourself. Children feel they are disloyal to one parent by staying with and loving another parent. This problem is rooted in the concrete thinking styles of school-aged children. It is a developmental issue that can’t be removed and everyone must learn to adjust.

Creative Communication
The key to being a successful summer parent is to have regular communication during the other months of the year. Because it is difficult for the parent who moves away to watch the child grow up, predictable and consistent communication in the form of phone calls, letters, postcards, e-mails, photos, and tape recordings can help. There are many social media tools and apps that can also be used.

Too many parents spend their time on the phone or in letters mourning the time they are apart or how much they miss the child. This re-traumatizes the child and makes the parent look pathetic. If it has to be said, say it one time and move on. Focus the discourse on what is going on in your and your child’s life. Make plans for the upcoming visit and discuss emotional issues important to the child. Stay away from morbid meanderings.

Make the communications short and newsworthy. A one page letter talking about how the dog ate your favorite shoe or describing a beautiful sunset will make a better connection between parent and child than a long, boring letter that lists every detail of the week. E-mail is also a great way to communicate as the medium itself is geared toward brief, informal notes, and the instantaneous nature of the format makes frequent communication practical.

Try alternative mediums. If the parent or the child is not a “letter writer,” try using a tape recording. Buy a compact recorder or use your phone and walk around for a day recording various activities and thoughts. Capture
the sounds of the dog eating your shoe or describe the sunset as you look out the back window. Buy a Polaroid camera and take pictures of the new house and neighborhood and send those (by e-mail or snail mail) to the child. Alternative forms of communication can add a little more color and life to dry words on paper and bring the child and parent closer together emotionally.

If you like creative ideas, do a project or play a game across the time zones. Read a sport article or watch a favorite television program and then discuss it later on the phone or by e-mail. Keep separate journals that are exchanged during the visits. Create an online web page with both parent and child as co-webmasters. Play a game of checkers (with two sets) and give the moves to each other during your communications.

Make up a “sharing box” where you put mementos and little treasures for the other person to look at and discuss when together. Start a garden or acquire an aquarium and get advice on what to plant and how to care for the fish from the other person. Creative ideas, such as these, foster family solidarity despite time and place. It makes the relationship feel real and alive and that is important to parent and child.

School Connections
Summer parents feel out of touch when it comes to the child’s life at school. Request to be put on the school’s mailing list or give the child’s teacher an e-mail address to update the distant parent on activities and progress. Many schools and teachers have web sites set up so parents can view their child’s itinerary and grades. Knowing what is going on at the child’s school allows parents to ask intelligent questions about upcoming field trips and school projects. The child will also feel that the parent cares about him or her. Parents can make similar connections with doctors, therapists, and coaches.
Jonathan and his father still miss each other, but their relationship has blossomed despite the distance. They are routing for the same baseball team and are working on a go-cart that Jonathan and his new siblings will race during the summer at a track near the father’s house. “I started taking
pictures of the engine as I dismantled it and I scan and send them out each week by e-mail to Jonathan. He told me last night that he has started a scrapbook with all the pictures in them. When he gets here, the go-cart should be all put together, and we can paint it together,” explains his father.

Geography doesn’t have to separate parents and children emotionally. Summer-time parents can keep the relationship alive during the school year so that they look forward to being together and can pick up where they left off. “Jonathan has excitement in his voice when we talk about our time together.That is the biggest gift I could ever receive!”

Co-Parenting Isn’t Working? Try Parallel Parenting.

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Many divorced parents are frustrated about their co-parenting arrangements. No matter what they try to do to work things with their ex, all of their efforts end up in conflict. Co-parenting feels more like game where there are no winners.

In these situations, the best advice is “no contact is no conflict”. If it wasn’t for the shared children they would have no contact and then there would be no problem but since that isn’t the case how do you co-parent with no contact? The answer is Parallel Parenting!

The situation reminds me of small children who are learning to share. Before they develop the skills to play cooperatively, they engage in parallel play. Both types of play look alike but when you watch more closely you realize that they are in the same room, with similar toys, playing next to one another but they are not really playing together. They are quite disengaged. Eventually, development will help create the skills needed for cooperative play. In the case of high-conflict divorce, parents may have to let go of the more mature cooperative parenting and shift to parallel parenting.

Parallel parenting purposefully disengages from the conflictual partner and concentrates on connection with the child. It may involve one parent focusing on dealing with the child’s school and the other on their soccer games. While both parents need to agree on major decisions, they will differ on daily logistics about bedtime routines, acceptable television watching, choice of baby sisters, and church attendance. When the daily heat can be turned down between parents, it makes the bigger decisions easier to navigate.

Parallel parenting protects the children. Research clearly demonstrates that high-conflict divorce results in higher rates of behavioral disturbances and mental illness later in life. More commonly, when a child tries to have a positive relationship with both parents who do not have a positive relationship with each other, they experience a “loyalty bind.” When the child is with parent A, he misses parent B. The child might even feel that he is being disloyal to parent B when he is with parent A and vice versa. This is easily intensified by parents who talk negatively about the other parent in front of the child. It can also occur when one parent acts like a victim causing the child to worry about them. Another way is leaning on your child for moral support and treating the child like the co-parent instead of a child.

It is a delicate balance to parallel parent and break down loyalty binds. A parents natural inclination is to protect their child and if they believe the other parent is harmful then…

The truth is that both parents are important to the child. To really protect them and find some sanity in the relationship, try using alternative methods to communication than face-to-face, like email or a notebook. Keep the wording factual about the child’s health, sleeping patterns, school events, weekend schedules, medical care, etc. Request separate school notices or records. Avoid showing up at the same events without prior knowledge. When you do end up at the same event, make a huge effort to demonstrate working together. You might actually find you can do it all the time!

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Keeping Love Alive Loving Through Difficult Times

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

How we love family members during the emotional distances and dark shadows of our relationships determine the long-term quality of those relationships. All relationships have ups and downs and our ability to ride out the extremes is challenging but a normal process of loving others. At the heart of the dark moments, we want to abandon the roller coaster ride for the firm safety of the ground. Our inner brains want us to fight or flee or if both of these options fail us, to freeze internal emotional reality. How do we overcome the turbulence and deep disconnect for the long haul?

One truth is to develop our identity and remind ourselves that relationship in not contained in the ups and downs but over the entire course of life. Look for the long tail of relationships and how to keep a spark alive even if it just nurture by you and not the other. The fight or flight mechanism of the brain wants us to rush our actions or re-actions when we really need to do in these crucibles is slow down and evaluate our choices. My best advice to families in the middle of chaos is to slow down but that is one of the hardest things to do. Many fail in the attempt.

A lot of my therapeutic work is with adoptive families. Many times the early life trauma results in an out-of-control teenager that ultimately forces the parent to consider residential care. They believe they have failed as parents and the relationship feels like it has ended. The truth is that relationship trumps residence. Your connection is stretchier than you thought. You may have to make a decision to create distance to ensure safety but you are not letting go of the relationship. You are protecting it and that is very different.

Because we like “up” moments filled with laughter and hugs and emotional closeness and hate the “down” moments with its harsh words, self-pity, victimization, and loneliness, we can start a rocking motion that swings faster and faster between the ups and downs. Pushing on one side and then the other increases chaos that throws everyone off the see-saw entirely.

When I work with bitter couples, hurt by infidelity and emotional rejection, I ask them to step off the see-saw, remember what attracted them to each other, the values they used to believe and to forgive one another. Too many nurture the wound and do not receive the healing. It is difficult to forgive but unforgiveness is like a poison that kills the heart of the relationship. It doesn’t say what was done was acceptable or that I will “forget and forgive”. You do not forget but you must forgive to allow life to start up again. From here we rebuild new creations that last.

Give up the illusion of control. You cannot control anyone else. You only have 100%, guaranteed results with yourself. You must manage you. Controlling your reactions is what allow the extreme ups and downs to settle and become smooth again. Take 5 to keep your relationship alive and pause to consider your best long-term actions. Take 10 and then reconsider again. If you need to make a hard, drastic decision, it is better to take the time to think it through completely vs. carrying a weight of regret.

Identity is the most important ingredient in loving through the distance.  Victim-minded people seek their identity through others instead of operation from a place of a sense of self. If I need you in order to be me and you are the source of my hurt and pain, then I cannot manage me that doesn’t exist. I cannot sustain a relationship that is one-sided. Start a journey of knowing yourself and your needs and your drives and your desires to deal with others in the distant relationships. Operating FROM a place of identity allows you to remain you even if others reject you. A simple starting place is journaling or talking to a therapist.

A final truth is that love is unconditional. It doesn’t have to agree with the other person’s actions or allow it to continue damaging the family but it doesn’t have to turn off. It can continue from a safer distant to provide an opportunity to bring it into closer intimacy. We don’t turn off love when others don’t do what we want. That is false power. Real power says I can set a boundary and I can exist without you but I choose to continue to love you. If you do not choose the same than I will remain me and love myself and others too.

Parenting Through the Tough Times

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

No one likes to go through tough times. Everyone would prefer to avoid extreme challenges and painful relationship encounter but we all go through them. How we endure them reveals what we are a really made of…Difficult situations reveal our parenting character and attitudes quicker than anything else in life. 

Attachment researchers call this “rupture and repair”. A rupture can be anything from a minor disagreement to a child stealing or running away to a major incident like a death or divorce. All families have them but how do they discover how to repair? It is the ruptures that tear down old strategies that didn’t support healthy communication and connection. Ruptures quickly remove strongholds in our relationships that prevent us from having the family of our dreams. This can be considered a good thing. It doesn’t feel good but it provides an opportunity to redefine our relationships. 

One way that families repair is they break agreements with lies they have believed about themselves and their family. These are often dysfunctional beliefs learned early in life that served to protect us from painful rejections and taught us our to get needs met even if it was distorted and manipulative. Fortunately, if we learned dysfunctional and distorted ways to navigate safely in relationships, we can learn new ideas and adopt healthier beliefs about how to have intimacy and connection. Most parents never stop to reflect during rough times to discover these new truths. 

Take a moment to ask yourself what did I learn about myself and my relationship during this most recent crisis? What was identified that needs to change and what am I willing to do to change it? Are you going to keep doing what didn’t work so well in the past and lead to this recent moment of pain or are you going to find a new thought and a new truth? 

Imagine you are taking a helicopter ride straight up, about a mile high, and look back down at your situation. What do you notice that you didn’t see before being so close to the circumstance? What details stand out to your now and what new directions do you need to get yourself and your family unstuck? You don’t have to know all the steps just yet. What is the first step that you feel you need to take right now to get healthier. 

The other way that successful families met tough times is to not blame one another. Even if someone else created a mess, they look at themselves to determine what messes are on their side of the street that they need to clean up. They stand on the principle of “the problem is the problem. The person is not the problem.” It can take a lot of emotional strength to stand on that thought but the truth is that you cannot change anyone, even a small child. You have to clean up your messes and your can model/teach your child how to clean up their messes. Guiding children, not controlling children is the real goal of parenting. 

Learn more power parenting tools with Ron Huxley’s parenting book: 

Love and Limits: Achieving a Balance in Parenting

Parenting and the Serenity Prayer: Acceptance and the Peaceful Home

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

If parenting could be summed up in a prayer, that prayer might be the “Serenity Prayer”:

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

This is part two of a 5 part series exploring the essential points of this prayer and how it can help parents find grace and peace in their family relationships.

Acceptance and the Peaceful Home:

Finding serenity in our lives is a matter of achieving balance. This balance can be precarious at times as parents deal with the many stressors of work and family life. Parents might look to outside sources for this place of peace. They might even hold others responsible for upsetting that peace, blaming them for the hurts and rejections they might have caused in themselves and their home. The cause of this imbalance might include drugs, alcohol, affairs, gambling and many other vices. It can also come from non-malicious sources that we don’t have control over, including job loss, divorce, death, illness, etc.

In order to create lasting peace in the home, we have to look inward to our values and beliefs. Parents can identify a “value system” that keeps them focused and motivated despite all the outside trials and tribulations. These beliefs will guide parents behaviors, help them make choices, and keep them intentional in their efforts to support one another.

The deepest beliefs come from our identity about what it means to be a good or bad parent. It is hard to create peace if we feel like a bad parent. We will try to avoid doing what we feel a “bad parent” would do and work to do what we belief a “good parent” should be doing. Of course, this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. This often occurs because parents belief that being good is the same as perfect. They hold themselves and their family members to a standard that is impossible to maintain. When they fail and fail they will, they think they are now a bad parent.

The reality is that there is no such things as a perfect parent or a perfect child. It is important to have the courage to be an imperfect parent who raise imperfect children and can still love one another through our mistakes. This road of unconditional love and imperfect relationships will require a constant review of our values and a lot of forgiveness, of ourselves and our family members.

Divorce and Parental Alienation

Parental alienation syndrome (abbreviated as PAS) is a term coined by Richard A. Gardner in the early 1980s to refer to what he describes as a disorder in which a child, on an ongoing basis, belittles and insults one parent without justification, due to a combination of factors, including indoctrination by the other parent (almost exclusively as part of a child custody dispute) and the child’s own attempts to denigrate the target parent.[1] Gardner introduced the term in a 1985 paper, describing a cluster of symptoms he had observed during the early 1980s.[1]

Parental alienation syndrome is not recognized as a disorder by the medical or legal communities and Gardner’s theory and related research have been extensively criticized by legal and mental health scholars for lacking scientific validity and reliability.[2][3][4][5][6] However, the separate but related concept of parental alienation, the estrangement of a child from a parent, is recognized as a dynamic in some divorcing families.[2][7][8] Psychologists differentiate between parental alienation and parental alienation syndrome by linking parental alienation with behaviors or symptoms of the parents, while parental alienation syndrome is linked to hatred and vilification of a targeted parent by the child.[9]

The admissibility of PAS has been rejected by an expert review panel and the Court of Appeal of England and Wales in the United Kingdom and Canada’s Department of Justice recommends against its use. PAS has appeared in some family court disputes in the United States.[10][11] Gardner portrayed PAS as well accepted by the judiciary and having set a variety of precedents, but legal analysis of the actual cases indicates this claim was incorrect.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parental_alienation_syndrome

In Defense of “Broken Families”

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

I have been noticing this term “broken families” pop up a lot recently in various professional writings and parent blogs. Each time I read it, I shudder. The underlying connotation is that a family that has undergone a divorce, death, adoption, abuse, etc. is somehow broken and unrepairable. It is a fatal diagnosis that leaves families without hope. I know, I know, it’s just language but words do have power. They percolate in the brain and become belief systems and self identifying references. The more we hear the word, the more we start to belive them and then we start to give up.

When someone witnesses a teenager with substance abuse issues, for example, people will comment: “You know they come from a broken family”. Everyone who goes through foster care, adoption, or experiences a divorce is going to have mental issues, right? Wrong. Many families deal with teenage substance abuse, not just nontraditional families. While it is possible that children of divorce may act out in antisocial ways, this doesn’t mean that all children of divorce will have issues in life that impair them. The same is true for adopted children or someone in a foster home or raised by a grandparent.

I am not denying that families do suffer from going through experiences like divorce or death or adoption. Loss is central to each of these things but that should not be a life-sentence resulting in mental and relational problems. Life is full of suffering. The focus here needs to be on how to help others cope. How can we learn from those who survive and thrive and teach it to everyone. I take affront at these comments and attitudes because they assume a dark, gloomy fate just because they have undergone a loss. That is just one path.

A recent national study on foster care and adoption in the child welfare system listed that 48% of children, in the system, have significant behavior problems. At first glance, that feels devastating but what about the other 52% that don’t? Who studies them? What makes them more of a survivor, better able to cope, more reselient? Let’s see those studies. Perhaps we could learn some useful tools to help us build strong families.

My challenge is too guard our language. This means we have to closely guard the thoughts that produce them too. We have to start looking at loss for what it is, a painful experience and not as destiny. To counter these negative connotations, try identifying the strengths of families and individuals in them. What have they done well that we can build upon? What new words can we use to describe them and assume their inevitable success in life?

Helping children of divorce transition between homes

When parents are going through a divorce things can get heated very easily. The simplest things can become very complex when parents disagree on issues. Often the only recourse is to get a legal agreement that spells out how custody is shared. This will involve a mediator, frequently appointed by the courts, if parents can’t work it out between them. Parents often ask me how to help their children adjust to the transition between two homes. This is a difficult answer to give as circumstances vary depending on the age of the child, distance between homes, parents work schedules, living arrangements and special needs of the child. Here are some general ideas, gathered about the net, that might prove helpful.

My best advice is that parents keep the child in mind first and foremost. What is in the best interest of the child?

Emotional Preparations for Transitions:

• Hold young children and give them physical comfort, hugs and reassurance. Most young children naturally seek the comfort that comes from being held or hugged. Give children extra hugs, smiles and hand-holding. Set aside time to sit together, put your arm around them or hold them and talk about their feelings.

• Give verbal reassurance to young children. Tell them often that you love them, that everything will work out and that you will not leave. Also, listen and allow them to share thoughts or feelings and help them realize that feeling scared or upset is OK and can be worked out.

• Provide children with security through maintaining some consistent routines that are familiar to them (build on existing routines or establish new ones). This might mean consistent routines at lunch time, during an exchange or at bedtime. It might involve reading stories each night (whether with either parent), playing a game or having the same child-care provider. Keep a child’s routines as similar as possible, which helps build security.

• Discuss upcoming changes or schedules before they occur and show young children in concrete ways what will happen. Make a calendar with X’s on days with mom and O’s on days with dad so they can see what will happen, or do a paper chain to show how many days until they see the other parent. Young children struggle more if they are uncertain of what will happen next.

• Read books or watch shows that involve dealing with divorce or related issues together. Buy, check out or borrow books or movies that show children or families dealing with divorce and its effects (make sure they are age appropriate). Ask children what they think about the story or characters and how they respond. Compare your own situation.

• Give young children tangible items to provide them security. Let them have a picture of the other parent in their bedroom, a stuffed animal they take with them between locations or other concrete items that help them. Young children need to have things of their own that they do not “lose” every time they go with another parent.

Parenting Guidelines:

Don’t talk down about the child’s other parent, no matter how frustrated or angry you become. Talking down about a child’s parent is like talking down about part of your own child. Establish a special routine during transition periods. Perhaps play a game or serve a special meal each time your child returns. Kids thrive on routine and if they know exactly what to expect when they return to you it will make the transition easier. Allow your child to have a transition object. If your child needs a blanket or teddy bear, let them. If the child is older and maybe doesn’t want to carry an item that large, help them make one. Maybe pick out some rocks that represent each parent. Have fun designing them so they know which rock belongs to whom. Call your child every day. You would be surprised at how much hearing your voice and knowing that you are thinking about them means to them, even if they don’t say much in return. Be understanding of their missing things from their other home, including the other parent. All of those things are very real to your child and not having them when they want them can be very frustrating. Work with the other parent to establish a few basic routines that are at both houses. For example, at both houses bedtimes should be very similar. Sitting at the dinner table may be something to be encouraged at both houses. Television viewing or video game playing habits could be similar in both homes. Establish some routine for going back to the other parent’s house. Maybe develop a checklist.

Did you remember your bear, your homework, your library book, your gym shoes etc? Make sure you do this each and every time so it becomes habit. Fewer things will be forgotten leading to less frustration and more responsibility. Develop firm procedures and rules about what is acceptable about forgetting things at the other parent’s house. Are you going to ground your child because he forgot his teddy bear? Will you be driving over to your ex’s house to get it at 9:00 at night because your 4 year-old just can’t sleep without it? Are you willing to let your child get a failing grade because your ex doesn’t follow a checklist and make sure your 5th grader had packed her month-long book report assignment? Make procedures and follow through. If it is possible, keep the communications open with your ex. You won’t always agree, but if you are at least communicating you both will always be in the know. If you are able to keep the communication lines open, make sure your kids know this. Have family meetings. Present yourselves as a united front even though you live apart. Back each other up. By doing this you will prevent your kids from trying to play you off each other.

Parenting Differences: Six Truces for Divorced Parents

The most difficult problem I have when working with children, in my private practice, is the parents. When parents cannot agree on how to raise a child, and specifically, how to discipline, it is almost impossible to reach a solution. By the time parents reach me, the problem has been going on for such a long time that neither parent will budge from there position. It is only when one of the parents will give up some of the battle ground that I can help the parents help the child.

This is even truer in divorced or separated families. In these situations, the parents are more interested in returning cannon fire at the “other parent” for past wrongs then they are interested in co-parenting their children although
that is what they claim motivates their actions. They will fight with their child’s name as their battle cry, making their warring appear righteous and their violence just, and sacrificing the needs of their children for stable, cooperative parents.

But, I have few battle tactics myself. In those moments when parents cannot agree, I offer parents some difficult truces:

The first truce is called “Squatters Rights.” The first parent on the scene gets to do the
discipline, no interference allowed. This works well for parents that cannot reach a compromise or with children who are masters at the “divide and conquer” routine. In this routine, the child, who may or may not have been the original transgressor, walks away from the crime, leaving warring parents in his or her wake. Why? Because the child has learned the art, dark and ugly as it is, of how to manipulate parents into a confrontation with one another to get out of trouble. Only parents who have recognized this routine with their children can use this truce effectively.

The second truce is called “Tag Team Discipline.” The other parent can only take over the discipline when the first parent signals for help. Just like tag team wrestling, a tag
or signal must be made before the other parent can enter the ring. At that point it is
the other parents turn to discipline and no interference is allowed from the first parent
who left the ring. Unless a second tag is made. This truce will only work when parents recognize a need to cooperate more but can’t break out of old warring patterns with each other.

The third truce is called “Two Heads are Better Than One.” In this situation, no decision
is made unless both parents have consulted one another and agree completely on the decision.
If they do not agree, no decision is made. This will put an immediate stop to children whom
play one parent against the other. It will work only for parents who are motivated to working
cooperatively together but are having difficulty knowing how to get started.

The fourth truce is called “Getting Off the See-Saw.” You have seen a see-saw at a child’s play ground. It has a long board, usually with two seats at either end, resting of a bar or
barrel so that the board can rock up and down. Parents who war with one another are like two
children playing on a see-saw. Push down on one side of the see-saw and the other side goes up. Push back on the other side and the first side goes up. Parents who disagree are engaging in a rocking motion that is self-perpetuating. It becomes very difficult to stop playing on the see-saw, especially after years of practice. This truce is only for parents who sincerely want to stop the see-saw rhythm in their relationship but cannot get the other person to stop pushing on the see-saw. It requires that the parent, who wants to get off, to moving toward the middle of the see-saw and away from their extreme position. If your husband is too lax with the kids, act more permissive and he will be more authoritarian. If he is too harsh, set some firm limits and he may become softer. The other parent can’t help put push on their end, even if it is not the one they originally choose. Eventually they will be forced to step off and stand on equal ground.

The fifth truce is called the “Ben Franklin’s Problem Solving Method.” It has been said that whenever Ben Franklin, an American Patriarch and successful business man, could not make a decision, he would take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. He would then put all the reasons for the decision on one side of the line and all the reasons against it on the other. The side with the most reasons would win. The success of this method is its reliance on logic and facts versus emotions – a dangerous area for warring parents. It will only work for parents who have had some experience cooperating with one another but get stuck on a particularly emotional issues.

The six truce is called the “Coin Toss.” Sometimes parents, even cooperative ones, cannot reach an agreement. Usually the best choice here is to decide to not make a choice. But when that isn’t possible I suggest that parents simply toss a coin. One parent calls it in the air and which ever side it lands on that parent gets the final say. Of course, I am usually joking with the parents when I suggest this truce, but if they want to use it, each parent has 50 percent chance of winning. I know for a fact that this is a higher percentage than most parents get in decision-making with each other. Humor is an important skill in parental negotiations. When parents take parenting too seriously, they lose perspective on what they are trying to accomplish and war erupts. Families today experience more stress than families of the past. This is why humor and a flexible attitude is crucial to cooperation. This truce will only work for parents whom generally cooperate with one another but get stuck from time to time.

These six truces cover the full range of situations where parents can disagree about parenting. If they do not work, find a family therapist to help the negotiations. Otherwise, war will continue. As with real wars, innocent children are often victims of even the most righteous causes.