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© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D.1 High Conflict Parents What Can You Do?
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D.2 The High Conflict Parent n Range of Behaviors (Johnston) 1. Verbal sniping, passive aggression 2. Arguments, interference 3. Aggression via the courts 4. Threats, stalking 5. Property damage 6. Physical violence, murder
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D.3 The High Conflict Parent n How many divorcing parents are HIGH CONFLICT?
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D.4 The High Conflict Parent n Costs (to parents) u attorneys, mediators, evaluators u therapists, counselors u time lost from work (e.g, hearings)
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D.5 The High Conflict Parent n Costs (to parents), cont’d u day care u supervised visitation u drug/alcohol monitoring u lowered functioning
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D.6 The High Conflict Parent n Public costs (taxpayers) u Court, judge, magistrate, security u Evaluation, mediation, counselors u Guardian ad litem u Children’s services u Schools (four times more services)
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D.7 Reasons for Conflict n Failing the Tasks of Divorce 1. Unable to accept the failure of the marriage F In emotional shock F Can’t recognize both are wounded F Can’t see both points of view F Feeling personally rejected F Won’t seek personal help
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D.8 Reasons for Conflict 2. Unable to recognize the divorce as a family crisis F Failure to protect the children F Failure to plan for financial health F Failure to plan the process of uncoupling
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D.9 Reasons for Conflict 3. Unable to Perform the Psychological Tasks of Divorce F Limit and structure contact with “ex” F Find safe outlet for strong emotions F Find sounding board F Get help: Legal, psychological F Healthy perspective: Healing vs. revenge F Separate parenting from marital roles
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D.10 Assumptions of Conflicted Parents n “My needs are more important.” n “The other parent cannot be trusted.” n “The other parent is a danger to my child.” n “My child will benefit in spite of conflict.”
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D.11 Assumptions of Conflicted Parents n “Only my view of my child’s needs is valid.” n “My child must have one house, one set of goals, one set of rules.” n “My attorney must represent my interests at all costs”
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D.12 Assumptions of Conflicted Parents n “The court must validate my point of view.” n “I may need to expend all assets.” n “Any level of anger/violence is justified.” n “Any reasonable person would agree with me.”
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D.13 Court Options n Temporary rulings n Restraining orders n Case management n Court-ordered services u Education u Mental health u Evaluations
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D.14 Court Options n Mental Health u Co-parenting coordinators u Supervised visitation u Family, individual therapy
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D.15 Court Options n Child and Family Evaluations F Should be home based & behavioral F Focus on child’s needs F Assess parent’s capabilities F Assess causes, cures of conflict F Parents need accurate view of child and selves F Should lead to a flexible plan
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D.16 Non-Court Options n Therapy n Private Mediation n Therapeutic Mediation n Collaborative Law
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D.17 Conflict Reduction 1. Both parents need information on potential harm of conflict 2. Respond without escalation 3. Learn communication skills 4. Resolve blame and guilt 5. Focusing on the future 6. Increasing focus on children
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D Types of conflict n Destructive conflict u focus on winning (and retaliating for loss) u proving who is right n Constructive conflict u focus on problem solving
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D Using “Akido” n Accept conflict, move it out of harm’s way n Center yourself; take deep breaths n Don’t get defensive; accept other’s concern n Remain detached; ask questions n Work with other vs. challenging them
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D Communication skills n Make agenda, stay on the topic n Use “I” messages n Use “Active Listening” n Rephrase and re-label
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D.21 More communication skills n Ask questions u about what the children need u about what the other parent needs u about how to meet all needs
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D Resolving blame and guilt Try these sentence completions (and share with other parent) 1. I am angry at you for ____________ 2. I am angry at myself for ____________
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D Resolving blame and guilt, cont’d 3. I should have _____________________ 4. You should have _____________________ 5. I wish we could have _____________________
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D Resolving blame and guilt, cont’d 6. I am sorry for_____________ 7. I want you to acknowledge__ 8. I feel that you owe me_____ 9. I feel that I owe you _______
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D Resolving blame and guilt, cont’d 10. I need to forgive myself for _______ 11. I need to forgive you for __________
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D Resolving blame and guilt, cont’d 12. By knowing you, I learned and gained the following __________________ 13. I have enriched you in the following ways _________________
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D Resolving blame and guilt, cont’d 14. I wish _____________________ 15. I also wish _____________________
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D Focus on the Future n Acknowledge the other’s feelings n Acknowledge your own feelings n We cannot change the past n We can control the future
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D Increasing Child Focus Verbal or written exercise for parents (only include what both parents agree on) A. We have the following goals and hopes for our children:
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D Increasing Child Focus, cont’d B. When our children become adults and look back on this period in their lives, we would like them to be able to say the following about us as parents:
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D Increasing Child Focus, cont’d C. We as parents can achieve the two items above by doing the following together:
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D Cooperative conflict style n Be straightforward and direct n Accept legitimacy of other’s concerns n Use persuasion vs. threats n Seek mutually acceptable solutions
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D Cooperative conflict style, cont’d n Emphasize common interests and areas of mutual agreement n Build power and resources of both
© 2001, Jack Arbuthnot, Ph.D.34 Further Information The Center for Divorce Education P.O. Box 5900 Athens, OH
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