Kate Gosselin recently admitted on The Today Show that two of her kids, Collin and Alexis, had anger issues, which she believes stem from her divorce from their dad, Jon. But in the next breath she said she hadn't made up with Jon, and that "there's no truce necessary."
And if it's not "necessary," wouldn't it be desirable? Even if a truce is the last thing that sounds appealing in the middle of a high conflict divorce, take a second to think about how you might benefit from a truce. I'm talking about being strategic, not necessarily nice. If you're on decent terms with your co-parent, when you ask to switch weekends with the kids you're more likely to get a "yes" and when you're running late, you're more likely to get the benefit of the doubt, as opposed to a scream fest.
You also have to consider the long term. For example, has Kate forgotten that she and Jon will be co-grandparents at some point? Does she (and do they) enjoy the fighting and sniping? Do they keep in chaotic contact because they can't imagine life without all this drama?
Sounds to me like Kate and Jon haven't read much about how conflict impacts children. Never mind that it must be exhausting for the adults to live with all that conflict, sniping at each other instead of cooperating and refusing to be flexible and then wondering why a request for a favor is turned down. And never mind new partners -- who'd sign up to be part of that family?
I'm going to be a little hard on Kate in the next few paragraphs, but this advice pertains just as much to Jon and, in fact, any divorcing parent -- or even intact families where there's a lot of conflict.
Jon and Kate, here's what the research shows:
The best predictor of how kids do post-divorce is the amount of conflict between the parents. It takes two to tango. Kate's finger-pointing is a bigger problem than whatever Jon is up to. If he can't be father of the year, then it's up to her to figure out how to work with that -- and vice versa. She picked him to be the dad of those 8 kids, and now she's got to deal with her decision, and insulting Jon and refusing to resolve the ongoing conflict is no solution.
For Kate to deny her role in their poor ongoing relationship is naïve and immature.
Divorce lawyers have a saying "God made 'em, God matched 'em," or, less politely, "Every garbage can has a lid." These two came together for a reason and for her to deny that she has any responsibility for what's going on is preposterous.
And for her to speak publicly about her disappointment with Jon is damaging to the kids. While they're still little, they know they're ½ Mommy and ½ Daddy. By hearing that "Daddy is bad" they hear that they're bad, too. When they're old enough, they'll see what Mom said about Dad and form their own opinions. Kate's strategy of "I'm good; he's bad" will likely backfire on her in the long run. And what is she teaching them about how adults should handle relationships? What it means to be married, and to be parents?
She could unilaterally change the dynamic between them -- even without his cooperation. If she chose her battles, gave him the benefit of the doubt once in awhile, learned to communicate more honestly and attacked the problem and not Jon, she could make this situation better. She's blind if she doesn't see that it's in her best interests to do so; if Jon was a more cooperative co-parent, that would take some of the responsibility off of her, which would make her life easier.
Diana Mercer is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Penguin 2010), and Your Divorce Advisor (Simon & Schuster 2001) and a mediator at Peace Talks Mediation Services, Inc.