Conflicts of Interest Blog by Vivian Scott
The family disputes I mediate can be heart-wrenching. They’re especially tough when I can see how much each parent wants to (needs to!) share with their children the truth as they see it; like when Dad hasn’t paid child support in months but is taking the kids out on his new boat or when Mom moves the kids to a new school and informs the staff not to share information with Dad. Frustration boils over and emotions run high so it can’t be surprising when the children either overhear icky information or get stuck listening to a diatribe delivered by a parent who feels wronged. It’s not surprising but, not to mince words, it’s wrong.
My opinion is that it can be difficult for us as parents to realize that our kids won’t always be children. We need to keep in mind that there will be plenty of time in the future to share whatever sordid details we feel are necessary when the little ones can see things from an adult perspective and can respond to us with the same level of candor we employ to tell our stories.
At some point down the line we parents can create an opportunity to cozy up on the couch with a glass of wine, some comfy throw pillows, and talk about the events that took place over the years as a collective experience; the good, the bad, and the ugly. We can talk about the fact that without the other parent we wouldn’t have had such wonderful children. We can share any good memories our previous partner created throughout the years. And, yes, we can talk about the time the ex- drained the bank account and how it took us years to get our credit straight. Or you can spill the beans about the serial cheating that went on and how devastated you were when you found out about it. You can tell the truth as you see it; just not now.
Why wait? Other than avoiding the possibility of really messing up your kids now, keep in mind that sharing the sordid details in retrospect rather than in the moment gives you the benefit of applying all of your life experience, wisdom, and knowledge to the account. You can share how hard it was to hold your tongue every time something happened, but then you get to add how glad you are that you did just that.
I say buy that bottle of wine now; and when you’re tempted to blurt remind yourself how much better wine becomes with age. Holding off on damaging words will do the same for you!
Kimberlee Kovach, a past Chair of the Dispute Resolution Section, has worked in mediation as a teacher, trainer, scholar, and practitioner for more than 35 years. To learn more about...By Jeffrey Krivis, Judith Meyer, Kimberlee Kovach, Larry Watson