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Preserving families: How to de-escalate

Children's well-being and student achievement are strongly connected with intact families and parents exercising good-will toward one another. However, mom and dad getting along and staying together is often much harder than a math problem, and sometimes it's impossible. But we can always strive for the best scenario given our individual situations.

From several studies, The Fatherhood Project Research Review points out that the better the parents’ relationship (together or separated), the better the relationship between the parents and children. Jim Talley (2008), in Reconcilable Differences, encourages reconciliation to the safest point possible, starting with friendship. Then he offers reconciliation guidelines for when certain benchmarks are met.

One of the biggest skills for family preservation and reconciliation is knowing how to de-escalate when tensions run high. This is especially important when abandonment, separation, or divorce are being threatened. The key is to communicate that you are hearing the other parent's grievances without losing composure, agreeing, or acquiescing.

Here are some examples.

"I bought my coworkers pizza today."

That was nice.

"We don't have enough money for the birthday party."

That's too bad.

"You don't work enough."

That's not how I see it.

"You are such a liar."

I'm sorry you feel that way.

"I'm just gonna leave."

That would be an extreme measure.

"We don't love each other. I printed out the divorce papers. If we just sign it will be cheap, quick and easy."

You've raised a lot of good points. Hey, I’m making some popcorn. Do you want any while we talk?

Then decide if you need to present an excuse to end the conversation (e.g. you need to take an important phone call), or if now is a good time to discuss important issues. We must at all times be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” when navigating difficult conversations, in order to prevent rash decisions made in the heat of the moment that would harm children (KJV Matt 10:16).

The Fatherhood Project Research Review

Reconcilable Differences

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