Aurisha Smolarski is a licensed marriage and family therapist, an author, and a co-parenting coach. Her new book is Cooperative Co-Parenting for Secure Kids: The Attachment Theory Guide to Raising Kids in Two Homes. 

475: Parent Together After Separation

Aurisha Smolarski, LMFT

How do you go from the acrimony of separation to a stable co-parenting relationship with your ex?

According to Aurisha Smolarski, it starts with inner work to understand your own needs, attachment style, and triggers.

Listen for the path to go from chaos to working together on “team kiddo,” as well as when to leave a toxic marriage and the hilarious mantra that got Aurisha through the difficult moments. 

Parent Together After Separation - Aurisha Smolarski, LMFT [475]

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*This is an auto-generated transcript*

[00:00:00] Aurisha Smolarski: You know, I look at conflict as not something to be avoided, but how do you move through it and do it in such a way that is healthy and that can actually move you to becoming closer if you're in a relationship that you want to be in?

[00:00:17] Hunter: You're listening to the Mindful Parenting Podcast, episode number 475. Today we're talking about parenting together after separation. with Arisha Smolarski.

Welcome to the Mindful Parenting Podcast. Here it's about becoming a less irritable, more joyful parent. At Mindful Parenting, we know that you cannot give what you do not have, and when you have calm and peace within, then you can give it to your children. I'm your host, Hunter Clarkfields. I help smart, thoughtful parents stay calm so they can have strong, connected relationships with their children.

I've been practicing mindfulness for over 25 years. I'm the creator of the Mindful Parenting course, and I'm the author of the international bestseller, Raising Good Humans, and now Raising Good Humans Every Day, 50 simple ways to rest, pause, stay present, and connect with your kids. Welcome back to the Mindful Parenting Podcast.

So glad you're here. Hey, if you get some value from this episode from the podcast, please do help the show by telling just one friend about it today. Send them a quick text, screenshot, whatever. You make a big difference when you do that, and I really appreciate it. In just a moment, I'm going to be sitting down with Arisha Smolarski, a licensed marriage and family therapist.

an author, and co parenting coach. And her new book is called Cooperative Co Parenting for Secure Kids, The Attachment Theory Guide to Raising Kids in Two Homes. And we're going to talk about what do you do after separation? How do you go from the acrimony of separation to the stable co parenting relationship with your ex that your kids need?

So according to Arisha, it starts with inner work to understand your own needs, attachment style, and your triggers, right? So you're going to listen for, in this conversation, for the path to go from chaos to working together. She has a step by step path on Team Kiddo, right? as well as when to leave a toxic marriage, and the hilarious mantra that got Aresha through the difficult moments.

So, join me at the table as I talk to Aresha Smolarski.

Well, Aresha, thank you so much for coming on the Mindful Parenting Podcast. I'm so happy to have you here. Thank you, Hunter, for inviting me to on your show. And thank you for asking me to Uh, write the foreword to your lovely book. I'm so excited to talk about it today. Oh, my God. I was so honored to have you say yes.

When you said yes, I was like jumping for joy. Oh, no. I felt like it was so perfect. Yeah. So, thank you. I think this is such an important topic, you know, co parenting kids after some kind of separation. It's incredibly challenging. It's incredibly hard. But before we dive into it, I just want to know a little bit about you and what brought you to this work.

How were you raised and what was your childhood like?

[00:03:21] Aurisha Smolarski: Yeah, so, um, I was actually, I was born in New York City, um, and I have a twin sister, um, yeah, so, and she still lives in New York actually. Um, and I, my mom is French and she moved to France, um, to go to graduate school where she met my biological father.

When I was about 17 months old, they divorced. And so in a way that was sort of the beginning perhaps of where I ended up writing this book. Um, he wasn't really in my life at all. Um, and so that may have contributed to some of, you know, my old abandonment stuff and why I also wanted to do things differently for my child when we were entering into a divorce, a two home family system of, you know, how can we change the narratives?

How can we, you know, change those kinds of things? Those, um, intergenerational traumas. And so, cause I really knew that my daughter needed both me and, you know, her dad in her life. Um, so, you know, looking back on my childhood, um, he wasn't, my biological father really was more about his own needs and his own sense of being right and, you know, winning.

And I think that instilled a lot of fear in my mom about losing custody and, you know, She still harbors a lot of anger around it. So anytime she talks about him or talked about him, there was just a lot of anger. So I probably took that on as well. And I also have my own anger towards him of like, you know, where were you?

Why didn't you show up? Um, when I was about three years old, my dad met, or my mom met my stepfather, um, who I actually consider my dad. Cause he showed up, he filled those shoes of being that reliable and consistent. Father figure that my sister and I needed and that my mom needed as a parenting partner and as a, you know, romantic partner.

Um, that's not to say that they had like a relationship that was full of roses, not at all. I'd say it was probably like functional dysfunction. Um, you know, there's probably a lot of, you know, Co dependency, and there was a lot of conflict, but there was also a lot of love and repair and shared interest.

They were both teachers. My father, uh, taught English literature and my mom taught French literature. So like reading and intellectual thinking was just kind of like everywhere in our household. Um, and the arts and music was a big part of our childhood. Um, we were just chatting about that before we got on is, you know, I feel like it's played violin since I was five years old, and piano when I played French horn.

And, you know, I took that into my, uh, teenage years. And when I moved to France when I was, uh, between college and, so after high school and before college, and, you know, I toured when I was there. So it really became kind of a staple for me to play. To find my voice, to find my identity in the world. Um, and my sister was a painter, was an artist and she still dabbles in, in, in doing art, but more in media.

And, uh, so, so we sort of divided up some of those arts between us and then here I became a writer. So, and my dad did a lot of writing too.

[00:06:31] Hunter: Yeah. It's so funny. I can relate so much because like my, I, I don't have a twin, but my brother, um, my, was my mom's first husband and they, my, she and my brother's father got married out of high school, but he left when she was pregnant.

And so my brother had kind of this absentee biological father his whole life. And, but, you know, my mom, my dad went on their first date when I think Jared was two or something. So, yeah. Um, it was similar. Yeah, very similar. And then also very artsy. Lots of, lots of, uh, lots of art growing up and, and things like that.

Uh, relate. And then now here we are writing about relationships. It's interesting. Yes,

[00:07:17] Aurisha Smolarski: I know, right? We learned the, we learned the first things and I mean, I was. in my family, like my role was the mediator, the peacekeeper. So in a way that was like, I learned how to be a therapist early on. And now I work with couples is, you know, work with couples and co parents are sort of my passion, um, and helping people move through conflict.

Effectively, you know, so, you know, I look at conflict as not something to be avoided, but how do you move through it and do it in such a way that is healthy and that can actually move you to becoming closer if you're in a relationship that you want to be in. When it comes to co parenting, of course, it's about moving it from conflict to more co operation, which is the basis of, you know, the basis of co parenting.

Clear communication and what I talk about in, in my book.

[00:08:07] Hunter: So for you, just a little bit back to your story. So you obviously went through a divorce and were you already a therapist when you got to the point where you were separating from your husband and were you like, okay, we're going to do this way better?

[00:08:23] Aurisha Smolarski: Yeah. Oh yeah. I was, I mean, I remember getting the text from him. I was sitting there with. I was like, this has got to be the worst timing. I just like, my face fell and I was like, okay, you know, um, so I had been a relationship therapist for years. 

[00:08:39] Hunter: He separated from you via text?

[00:08:41] Aurisha Smolarski: Yeah. Classic. Yeah. Yeah. They were at the beginning.

It was all like all a mess. Not done well. Yeah. We had had a big, you know, blowout the night before. And then I got the text, like I'm moving out while I was sitting there with clients. Um, so, you know, you know how you hold your phone when you give payment. So that's how I saw it. So the, the clients most likely didn't see it.

Oh man. Yeah. So I had to do a lot of cleanup, you know, with my daughter cause she was sort of, you to what, without knowing what was going on. And so, yeah, so at the beginning of, you know, our breakup, um, obviously it was full of tension and conflict and we didn't know what we were doing. And, you know, I was super angry and there was a lot of resentment and hurt and betrayal and all the emotions.

Um, and I could see that my daughter was in distress. And so I realized, you know, I need to do something. differently than just operating in conflict, in this tension, because it's really affecting my daughter every day. Like she would hide under the, the table or, you know, she'd sit there and say, I feel all alone in the woods.

So she was letting me know that she wasn't happy. And of course I was, she was five, just about to turn six. Um, so it was like right near her birthday. So yeah, amazing. I mean, she was so verbal and already could like, let me know. But I also was listening, you know, I, as a therapist, we learned to like observe the emotions underneath the behaviors and all that.

And I was like, this isn't, this is not healthy. Um, so I was like, what, how, how do I be in this kind of relationship? Cause co parenting is still a relationship. And I do think it's just as valid as a marriage or dating. And, um, So, you know, I went to the internet to look for resources on how do I be in a co parenting relationship.

There are a lot of books on what to do and what not to do, but I couldn't find anything that felt helpful on how to be in this kind of relationship. And so I, you know, started to apply my own, what I knew about relationships. and Relationship Principles and Attachment Theory to my own co parenting relationship, and it started to work.

Like, we then started to move, you know, day by day, bit by bit, it took time. We started to move from conflict and tension into more cooperation. And it isn't about being friends or hanging out because that was not happening. It was just about, you know, focusing on working together. Being on team kiddo, I call it, working together to prioritize the kids.

And so, you know, through that experience of, like, I, even on my own, I could change the dance. I could change the dynamic by being more intentional in the way that I communicated or, you know, being more aware of my tone and realizing like, oh, he might actually hear that as a criticism. So maybe I should be, you know, ask more questions.

So I became much more intentional in the way that I was, you know, engaging with him. And, and um, And that shifted everything. And then my daughter started to feel more at ease and she got back to her happy and thriving self. And, and I got, you know, great feedback from mom friends who were like, what's your secret?

Your kid just seems really well adjusted really, you know, pretty quickly. What's, what are you doing? And so, um, you know, with supportive friends and colleagues that decided to write it all down. And, uh, and so that's, that's sort of the seeds of where Cooperative Co Parenting for Secure Kids came about because.

I feel like I'm seeing it happening where my kid is secure. And then, you know, I started bringing all those strategies to the co parents I was working with. And I also saw that really helping, um, their family structure as well, their two home family structure.

[00:12:36] Hunter: Stay tuned for more Mindful Mama podcasts right after this break.

That's a beautiful story. I love, I love a story of generational patterns turned around and that clearly happened for you. And of like, that awareness of. the mess and the problem, allowing you to put on the brakes and to say, okay, what's in my locus of control? What can I do? How can I, how can I adjust this?

Now, I'm sure for the people who are maybe having a conflict, well, let's like rewind a little bit because you say, actually like, You say that, um, a good divorce is better than a bad marriage. So, because I know there's some people who are like, oh my God, everything's horrible, but I'm just, this is, you know, why, tell me, tell me about a good divorce is better than a bad marriage.

[00:13:33] Aurisha Smolarski: Yeah. So this, that's, you know, it's a trope that actually was, um, first coined by Constance Aaron. She put out a book, um, in 1994 called The Good Divorce. And I think she was one of the forefront voices to start to change that narrative that divorce is always bad for kids. It's more about how you do divorce.

And I think that is key. You know, that when kids remain in. Uh, a marriage where parents stay together, even if there's a lot of toxic, uh, conflict where there's emotional abuse or sometimes even physical abuse, it actually puts the kids in a very unsafe environment. And they have to take on sort of roles of protecting themselves or protecting a parent or, you know.

Um, and that toxicity causes a lot of stress for them and it can actually, um, you know, research actually shows that kids who stay in a household where, uh, there is all this ongoing conflict actually experience much more emotional, um, and, and, and developmental issues growing up than being in a two home family system.

[00:14:41] Hunter: So it's not always, it's not always one of the aces, right? Avoid the adverse. Exactly. Childhood event. It's how you do it.

[00:14:50] Aurisha Smolarski: Because I think what, what they show causes longer term harm is the ongoing and continued conflict or when a child is being put in the middle, um, of their parents, um, or being asked to take on roles that shouldn't be theirs.

That's what causes long term harm. And that can happen even within one home family systems. So a good divorce is where a child can experience calm, they have safer environments in their two homes, or even if, even if it's just in one home, um, they can experience, uh, a, a parent who is more calm and happy.

you know, through growth and learning is happier, which means that the child is also going to feel that, you know, the, the repercussions, happy parent, happy kid. Um, and the child, the parents can be more tuned to the children's needs and emotions if they aren't, you know, undergoing, you know, uh, emotional and trauma in their own relationship.

So it can really help a child feel more prioritized. We're seeing, and it can help them get back to finding security, even if it's just with one parent. Um, so that's why it's so important. It's about how you do the divorce that can actually change the lives for kids. for so much better. I mean, they can learn important relationship skills.

They can see their parents working together. They can learn that they can make a choice in love and that they don't have to stay in something that is unhealthy and toxic, that they don't have to, you know, continue those intergenerational traumas of, you know, caretaking or of aggressive behavior or of, you know, abuse.

And so I think all of that points to why A good divorce is better than a bad marriage.

[00:16:44] Hunter: You've convinced me. I, I think that, um, I'm, I'm down for this, this idea. Yeah. I mean, you, who wants all that conflict and that mess and that stress and that, um, you know, that could be incredibly upsetting and traumatizing for, for everyone involved.

Yeah. I think that it, it, I've, I've been wondering about that, you know, as we, we think about this, the language of the ACEs, the Adverse Childhood Events, and the numbers of them and they add up. And that's such a simplified way of looking at things can be really, really helpful, but maybe too simple for students.

Certain things, you know, like, uh, yeah, um,

[00:17:25] Aurisha Smolarski: and I think they, I, and you know, I talked to other trauma specialists who work with children as well, and there is really an agreement that it's, you know, when parents can be emotionally attuned and when they can create these predictable environments and consistent structures and routines, even in two homes.

That's really what they need in order to thrive. You know, that's the basis of cooperative co parenting is creating that secure foundation. And, and when children have that, then they can navigate the stressors and the adversity and the challenges that come with divorce and come with any stressor that they might actually experience in life.

So, you know, it's, it's really about the intentionality and how parents engage with each other so they don't continue the conflict and they don't continue to bring in, you know, the, the past hurts between their relationship and instead they just focus and prioritize the kids. And that's really, you know, and kids, I mean, there really is a lot of research that shows that kids really do fine, do very well and thrive when they grow up in situations that they have that security and that stability between two homes.

[00:18:35] Hunter: Okay. So for the person who's like going through a separation now, They're in that mess. Someone has just texted them some horrible news and they're just like, they're in, they're fighting. They're in conflict. It's, it's chaos. I imagine it's hard to imagine getting from that place to emotional attunement and collaboration and cooperation.

It seems like there's a huge chasm there. Where does someone start once they, you know, with this?

[00:19:09] Aurisha Smolarski: Yeah. Journey. That's a great question. So, and I, and I'm, I'll use myself as an example because that's kind of how the whole, the book is structured in a way is like my journey and how I got to being able to find cooperation even after that, you know, that text and like amidst all the emotions.

And I think the first thing is to realize that it is a journey. There are a lot of emotions. And to go slow and to acknowledge and to work with a therapist or, you know, I'd say work with a therapist. Um, friends can be really great, but sometimes they can actually fuel the fire. So, um, to. To go inward and to identify, you know, what, what is happening with me right now?

What are the emotions that I am experiencing? What, um, triggers are happening that may have originated not only just in this past romantic relationship, but earlier on in my childhood experiences, such as old abandonment wounds or rejection or fears of being alone or shame of not being good enough or worthy, you know, so.

You know, in my book, I actually go through these emotions that can really play out in the, at the beginning of, um, a breakup and, um, and that, that'll, the undercurrents of a lot of the conflict. Um, I think it's also helpful for people to identify, you know, what their attachment styles are. Um, because when you can learn about your own patterns of behavior that originated earlier on based on your, you know, childhood experiences, it's not that any of them are bad or good.

It's just about learning how your triggers show up and how you and your co parent may be actually stepping on each other's landmines, creating outcomes that you really care about. Don't want to have happen. So I think one of the first steps is really doing your own inner work. Um, so that you can then come back to your co-parent from less of a triggered state, still trying to get them to meet your needs or to acknowledge you or to apologize and they're not gonna apologize.

That's done. So I think that's like some of the first steps really, is to separate out. You know, their role as your attachment, your old attachment figure, from now that person is just you. your co parenting partner. That's it.

[00:21:46] Hunter: That's a lot of work to do. I mean, that's a lot of self awareness. You want to, you know, know yourself, your attachments, your triggers.

I mean, I imagine kind of without that self awareness, it's a lot of it is like, Oh, you, you met, you named those. Feelings like shame and abandonment, all these different things that can arise, and people are just like, Oh my God, I feel bad, and I'm reacting to you, right? And then it's just this sort of cycle of reactivity.

And you have, I like that you have a chapter, Chapter 3, Responding Instead of Reacting. Um, this idea of your attachment style and your triggers and things like that. This is all something that I, I appreciate that you say you should, should work out with a therapist. I mean, for you, I mean, I don't know, just to kind of armchair a little bit here, uh, I imagine like with your dad, I mean, just like as if with my brother, I know like there's, you know, I imagine there's this, not that I know for sure, but like, I imagine there's like an, you know, and.

an avoidance or an insecurity like about the attachment, right? That kind of arises. So my thoughts of that.

[00:22:55] Aurisha Smolarski: Yes. So I was more, I, if, I mean, obviously our attachment styles change depending on who we're with. And I had more of a anxious attachment, anxious, ambivalent attachment with my, with my ex because he was more avoidant.

And so I wasn't getting the and the, the consistency that I needed from, from him. Um, so he, In the breakup, what was happening is, well, for one, I think I stayed in too long, which a lot of, you know, people with anxious ambivalent attachment styles tend to do. Like, I really wanted to fix it. I was trying to change him.

Um, all those things I, you know, sometimes You know, would use tone, which would incite, um, this kind of reactive, defensive response or reactivity in him that would just have him, you know, leave, and then I would feel abandoned. Right. So in me taking stock of my own stuff. And that's what's hard. And in the book, I actually kind of walk people through it because I know not everyone can afford to go to therapy.

And so part of my purpose in writing this book is to provide people with, you know, tools and access to some of these, you know, without doing actually therapy in the book, but Therapeutic, um, ways of creating more insight and more connection with it, with yourself with like, I call it untangling your emotional cables and plugging those cables back into yourself.

And that's like deep healing and compassion. It's very mindfulness based, um, about, you know, being present to your own emotions so that you don't keep trying to get them met from your co parent. And that was probably the biggest learning for me. was no longer trying to get acknowledgement from him. And that changed everything.

It was like, I don't have to try to change him to be a parent that, like the kind of dad that I want him to be or that I think he should do. You know, or, or the ways in which I would hope that he would show up, you know, he's now creating the relationship that he's going to have with my daughter and actually, you know, thank goodness he's, he's a really good dad.

And that's something that I learned to just kind of lean on and trust. Um, not everyone has that. And I know that I know not everyone has that trust that they can, you know, rely on their co parent to show up as a good, as a good co parent. good parent to their kids. So that was something that at least created some level of ease.

I mean, there's always issues in every, in every situation, but, um, bringing the power back to myself as opposed to putting it on the other person is key. And that was so important for me was I can change the dance. I can change the dynamic by what I do within myself instead of continuing to try to change the coat, my co parent, um, cause that's not going to happen.

[00:25:46] Hunter: And so that was a power. It was empowering for me. Sorry to, sorry to interrupt, uh, you know, but it's interesting cause it's almost like in some of the ways, like you, you had to detangle your needs from him, right? You're saying you have to detangle like all the different needs you have from him. And in some ways it's almost like when marriages in general, or, you know, we put so much in general, like we put like, Oh, this one person is going to be my everything.

They're going to be my friend and my companion and they're going to be my lover and they're going to be my soulmate and they're going to be. My household manager, you know, like, they're going to be everything. And in some ways, like, looking and saying, okay, I have all these different human needs and saying, I mean, that makes a lot of sense.

Like, let me take a moment to find out how I can get my needs filled in another way, in other ways. How, how can, can I rely on my friends? Can I go back to my, family? Can I find, you know, other people are going through something similar? Um, et cetera. Um, and, and that's going to give you some level of stability and groundedness.

So be able to then, you know, see you this co parent and, and You know, see that you're suffering too, right? Like, and just kind of see him, I guess, with a little bit more objectivity, a little bit more compassion. Is that what it allowed you to do?

[00:27:16] Aurisha Smolarski: Yes. It allowed me to separate myself from, I mean, it allowed me to have more compassion for him.

I think at that point I was done having compassion for him. I had spent many years having compassion for all things. You know, um, well, his mom was like that, so that's why. And his dad was like that, so that's why. And, and so what was important for me was no longer thinking about. Being compassionate for him, but being compassionate for myself.

For all the feelings that I did have, for the fears, for the, the shame, for the, you know, and believing the feelings that I had were true and real instead of, um, you know, I mean not to get into it cause I don't want to kind of drag the relationship into this because I think, you know, it's not necessarily helpful, but I think it's important for people to realize.

Um, that when we can bring that compassion to ourselves. It's, it's the catalyst for healing and it's the, you know, it's the, the, the launching off point that we can start to see and feel and attune to our own, you know, all those, all of our parts, all of our, um, insecurities or needs or feelings.

[00:28:42] Hunter: Stay tuned for more Mindful Mama podcasts right after this break.

[00:28:50] Aurisha Smolarski: So I think the compassion is the catalyst to. Being able to do your own healing work from there, you can validate your own needs, validate your own emotions, um, and start to really separate out everything that existed in the romantic relationship. Be able to just focus more on yourself. So, I didn't necessarily bring compassion to him, but I brought more compassion to myself, and that was really helpful.

And I also created a mantra that helped me get through it, which was, and I mentioned this in the book, and I think everyone should have a mantra. Like, you know, whatever the thing is that you keep trying to get for your co parent reminding them. And mine was, um, you can't get roses from a hardware store because I kept wanting to be seen and validated from it.

I know it's great. My, my friend actually, you know, Kara Hoppe, yeah, she actually was like, said it in a voice. That's perfect. Yeah. She's been on the podcast.

[00:29:49] Hunter: Go Kara. Good job.

[00:29:50] Aurisha Smolarski: Yeah. She's a good friend and oh my God. That was like, that was a piece of gold that she handed to me. I'm like, absolutely. And so any time that I would feel dropped or not seen or try to get him to understand or see me or acknowledge, I just would say to myself, you can't get roses from the dollar, from the, from the hardware store.

And I just stopped and I didn't engage. I was like, okay, bye. And then I would give myself those roses.

[00:30:15] Hunter: Hmm.

[00:30:17] Aurisha Smolarski: And that was enough, you know? 

[00:30:18] Hunter: That's so lovely. Oh, I love this. I'm so glad we went down that road because I think, I know there's some people who needed to hear that, right, about this. the power of that self compassion.

And I think that's so beautiful. Okay. So then you're, I guess what I'm, what I'm gonna imagine is that then from that place, you got to talk to your co parent and say, okay, what are we going to agree on? Is that where you start with them? Team kiddo. Team kiddo.

[00:30:52] Aurisha Smolarski: Yes. So one of the first things that I do with co parents is to really create a mindset shift.

And then from there, you can create a new commitment for your co parenting team that's based purely on co parenting your child together. So you have to say goodbye to the old relationship, all the stuff, everything that we're talking about, all the things that lived in the romantic relationship so that you can then say hello to the co parenting relationship that's based upon one thing, parenting.

And so in a way, if you focus it just on that, It sounds simple, it's not always as simple because all of the other stuff gets involved. If you separate your emotions, if you separate all that out of it, what's left is this commitment to parenting together so that your child has a certainty that they won't lose their family.

It's just changed. And so that commitment to prioritizing the kid and prioritizing their needs and making decisions that really are about them. Will help the child feel more secure and, and, and prioritized and seen and, and safe.

[00:32:00] Hunter: And that's basically the, the basis of some kind of stability and, and the conversations that move forward from there.

From there. Yeah. Um, and, and, dear listener, Arisha has a beautiful chapter on the chapter on responding instead of reacting. She goes into pieces like active and passive aggression, blaming behaviors. You kind of walk people through and give wonderful examples, criticizing behaviors, um, Navigating this tricky, this tricky journey from the chaos and the pain and the difficulty to this place of like, okay, we're just focusing on parenting and we're gonna talk to each other.

Um, are there any pieces from that particular chapter that you want to pull out and share with the listener?

[00:32:54] Aurisha Smolarski: I think, um, because, you know, the book is grounded in attachment theory, one thing that I think can be really helpful, and that was really helpful for me in being able to understand why do I do what I do and also to understand my co parent, why does he do what he does so that you no longer create those triggers which then cause reactivity, um, is that Um, when you can look at that, a controlling behavior often comes from deep insecurity, um, feeling, uh, out of control or unworthy, or there's, um, fear that's there.

And so if you bring that curiosity. to yourself. So all we can do is, you know, control goes on with ourselves. So first with yourself, you bring that curiosity to like, why am I feeling so afraid right now? You know, and in that fear, then I'm bringing that anxiety and fear that then comes off as you need to do this.

You need to do that. And how come you're not doing this, which then will cause, you know, the reaction of defensiveness from the other person. I call it hot potato in the book, you know, and it's sort of like a game of hot potato. And I think that's maybe the big takeaway is that we can drop the hot potato even if it comes to us because it's loaded with all of these things, all of the emotions and the past and the shame and the fears and all of that.

If you can drop it and not engage with it, take a breath, pause, and instead respond not to whatever was thrown at you, but from a, from a more common collective place, you're going to, uh, decrease the, the, the back and forth game of conflict. And I think that chapter really kind of hones in on how we as an individual have the power to change that dance, that game of hot potato by becoming more aware of our own patterns of behavior, our own reactivity, and where the triggers come from.

And again, bringing that compassion and the pause. I'm a big fan of pausing before you respond.

[00:35:00] Hunter: So hard to do sometimes, I wonder. It really is. And some issues that are so important and so meaningful to us, right? Of our, our children's upbringing and the, the house and the, and all of these things, like these are incredibly vital.

So it can be, um, Yeah. It can be, I mean, it's, it's obviously so, so loaded. Um, so you talk about creating like a co parenting vision together. You talk about creating an agreement together. Do you, so these are sort of the foundations of creating some stability between, in the, in the relationship and being able to communicate from a basis of what we agree on.

Yeah. That makes sense. Yeah.

[00:35:49] Aurisha Smolarski: Yeah, absolutely. I think, um, you know, if you think about your co parenting team as a nonprofit or a business, um, with a goal of one goal to raise a happy and healthy child. Um, and so, you know, nonprofits have different, um, elements to them. And one of it is also often based on mission and values.

And collaborative vision statements. Um, so one of the first things I do with my co parenting teams that I work with in my, in my, um, practice is I have them create sort of this foundational agreement. And it's amazing how. In alignment, most people are when it comes to their vision for how they want to co parent.

Do they actually, are they actually able to do it right off the bat? But if we have that foundational agreement, which most often is about, you know, creating a happy, healthy, resilient, and well adjusted kid in their own words, and people want to communicate well, I mean, they, they are using all of the, the, the things that we want.

They just don't know how to get there. So, what that allows us to do then is to sort of always look back to that. Okay. So right now, how do you maintain focus on your foundational agreement and it can really bring in, um, bring co parents back together in that cooperative stance of, Oh yeah, what actually is best for the kid.

And there's a question I always ask, is this for you or is it for the kid? And that also helps them readjust.

[00:37:24] Hunter: I like that. Good question. Yeah, I guess that makes sense. Like, um, you know, if you're getting, if you get a little lost in the weeds down the road, but you're like, okay, okay, this is getting messy.

We're getting triggered. We can come back to, this is what, this is what we agreed on. This is our mission. This is our vision. Is this aligning with this, right? And has that, has that worked out, you know, has it worked that way for you and your co parent, for instance? Oh, for sure.

[00:37:54] Aurisha Smolarski: For sure. You know, I mean, people have different values and that's okay.

You know, on, on any team, like on a soccer team or basketball team, you're going to have different players who come on and they're going to have all their different backgrounds, but the goal is still about winning the game. And so if we think about the purpose of cooperative co parenting is about child winning and putting them at the top of, you know, at, at, at the top of your focus, that helps.

You align yourselves, even if the visions and your values may be different, it's more about how you talk about them, how you don't like, you know, throw your co parent under the bus, or, You know, minimize the differences, but how you talk to your child about the differences. And so I coach people on talking about these differences and how they can actually be, you know, opportunities for learning and, you know, opportunities for the child to have more diversity in their lives and a perspective, um, that then later on will help them develop their own value systems.

So I, again, I Often here, a lot of people struggle with, you know, in the name of consistency, they have so much conflict. It's not the same and our values are different. But that fight is actually worse for kids than figuring out how to talk about the differences and helping your kid navigate the differences between the two homes.

Um, and so identifying the, the values, one can get people aligned on the same page and also identify the areas where they're not aligned. But then we can talk about how, how can you help your kid navigate these differences? Um, so that they don't feel, you know, stuck in the middle or torn in half, or, you know, they don't hear the parents say something negative about the other parent, like all of that.

We want to make sure the child is not having to, um, be a part of, cause that's actually what's, what's harmful.

[00:39:53] Hunter: Yeah, the adults need to adult about those things.

[00:39:55] Aurisha Smolarski: Yes. We absolutely do.

[00:39:59] Hunter: So what are some of the most important things when parents are separating for people to agree on? I mean, there's, people live very different lives.

I mean, imagine it's like, you know, is it, is it bedtimes, mealtimes? Is it, is it? You know, I don't, what are, what are some of the vital areas where you, it's, it's way better to, you have a chapter called Presenting a United Front. We know it's not going to always. Right. Right. That you're always together on some things, especially probably with someone you disagreed with and didn't get along with enough to, to separate from.

But what are the places that you would love for people to create an agreement on? 

[00:40:40] Aurisha Smolarski: I mean, I think creating healthy transitions between the two homes, um, is really important and helping your child. And within that transition, helping set your child up to know what to expect. Um, and as I was just talking, you know, when I was just talking about, you know, helping them understand the differences.

So yes, having consistency between both homes is ideal, but that's not realistic. It doesn't even happen within one home family systems, you know, people parent differently and that again, it's so, so I think it's really about creating consistency within your own home. Okay. And that's really helpful for a child to have that, um, structure around them to be able to lean on and to count on that their parents have reliable and predictable routines and, um, boundaries and limits.

You know, that can help a child feel safe and secure within their environments, and they can take that with them between both homes. So I think one of the key things is really about what can I do in my own home? How can I create that consistency within my own home and help prepare my child to transition into the other environment?

Um, Of course, working with your co parent as, as much as possible to have consistent, you know, boundaries and limits, um, for sure is going to definitely benefit your kid, you know, around screen time and bedtime, you know, generally having a similar bedtime time is going to help your, your kid. child's system regulate and get used to going to bed at a certain amount of time at a certain time.

So those are, I would say those are the probably the top two if we're going to pick, you know, consistency between the two homes. Um, and then the other thing that's important is just being available to your kid. And creating those quality moments with them and those really, you know, 10 minutes a day connection time with them.

So they really, you know, have feel seen and heard and that you're, they know that you're interested in, in them and who they are and that you engage one on one with them without any distractions. And I think that's really helpful also to help your kid navigate, you know, their own emotions. and understand the differences.

So that emotional attunement through creating intentional connection time with your kid every day is huge.

[00:43:07] Hunter: Yeah. Yeah. I think it's, it goes without saying, cause it's, it's huge. Any, any time, right? Like for all of life's challenges. There's so much in Arisha's book. If you, my friend, dear listener, are separating and you want to have a guide, this is such an incredible guide.

I love it so much. You know, it just walks you through everything with such With her, as you can hear, her beautiful, clear, down to earth and compassionate voice. Um, it's, it's such a, it's, it's really helpful, I imagine. I, I'm not going through a divorce, but I, I, I'm recommending it anyway.

[00:43:53] Aurisha Smolarski: Yeah, I, I've been hearing some really positive feedback from people who have been reading it.

who are, uh, child therapists themselves. So I feel really grateful that, um, there has, you know, there's space for this and, and, and I really hope that it helps co parents along their journey to find some clarity and, and understanding of how to be in this co parenting relationship, because I know that every parent wants their kid to thrive and it can feel very daunting and confusing.

So, you know, Um, I'm just happy and hopeful that this provides that, you know, guide and pathway for, for co parents and along their journey. So yeah.

[00:44:36] Hunter: Well, it's, it's wonderful as, as you know, I think, um, so Arisha, where can people cooperative co parenting for secure kids is everywhere books are sold. Where can people find you if they want to continue the conversation?

[00:44:50] Aurisha Smolarski: You can find me at my website, which is areshasmolarsky. com. You can also find me on Instagram, um, at Cooperative Co Parenting and Facebook at Cooperative Co Parenting. So feel free to say hi, DM me. I'm happy to chat and continue this conversation with anyone who wants to engage and learn more.

[00:45:11] Hunter: Well, thank you so much for taking the time to chat.

I know you didn't get a great night's sleep last night. I would have never known that, Arisha. Adrenaline.

[00:45:23] Aurisha Smolarski: Tapping into my performance part of me that, you know, did music performance when I was a kid. I'm like,

[00:45:28] Hunter: oh, here we go. Wow. Go, go little, little violinist performer, Arisha. Anyway, thank you. This has been such a pleasure.

I really appreciate you coming on the Mindful Parenting podcast and sharing this. Thank you so much, Hunter.

[00:45:41] Aurisha Smolarski: This has been a pleasure.

[00:45:48] Hunter: Thank you so much for listening. I thought this was such a, such an insightful episode. I love talking about communication and wow, what a communication challenge that is. Oh my goodness. And, and I hope that this episode supports you. And if you do, share it with a friend. Tell them to subscribe to the podcast and Listen to some of the other episodes and in that vein, I want to give a shout out to a supporter, someone who supported the podcast by leaving a five star review on Apple Music, Apple Podcasts.

It's Lily Mama and they said, love this podcast. It literally saved my co parenting relationship. I've been practicing mindful parenting since my daughter was born seven years ago. Unfortunately, her father did not believe in any of this and it was a hard road to convince him. that this was the right way.

But after sharing episodes of this podcast with him, he's come to understand a lot better what's going on with our child, that she doesn't do things on purpose to hurt us, that she is hurting inside or needing something from myself. Those moments now we're able to co parent successfully. Wow. So cool. And she says, thank you.

Thank you, Lily Mama, for that awesome review. I appreciate that. That is, of course, another great way to support the podcast is to leave an Apple podcast Uh, review, and that's kind of easy to do, actually. You just like, if you're listening on Apple Podcasts, the purple podcast player, you kind of, you just click on it and there's like a way to click on it right from your phone.

So if you have a moment, you want to switch the podcast, that's great. Thank you for listening. Um, you know, it's, uh, it's April here in Delaware. It's the most beautiful season here. Um, yeah, so I hope that I'm like seeing a lot of beautiful flowers and freshness. I'm so kind of glad to be out of winter and I hope you are too.

We're doing a lot in our house. Like, Sora's doing a lot of first track writing and he's working at the bookstore and I'm doing a lot of Scottish dancing, getting ready for things. So, um, but yeah, even if your life is full with all these things, like mine is, I hope So you also make time to rest and chill as well.

So I hope this podcast has supported you. Please, of course, be subscribed and all that. And, um, yeah, thank you for listening. Thank you for being here and I will talk to you next week. Okay. Take care of my friend. Namaste.

I'd say definitely do it. It's really helpful. It will change your relationship with your kids for the better. It will help you communicate better. And just, I'd say communicate better as a person, as a wife, as a spouse. It's been really a positive influence in our lives. So definitely do it. I'd say definitely do it.

It's so worth it. The money really is inconsequential when you get so much benefit from being a better parent to your children and feeling like you're connecting more with them and not have to worry about it. If you're feeling like you're yelling all the time, or you're like, why isn't this working? I would say definitely do it.

It's so, so worth it. It'll change you. No matter what age someone's child is, it's a great opportunity for personal growth, and it's a great investment in someone's family. I'm very thankful I have this. You can continue in your old habits that aren't working, or you can learn some new tools and gain some perspective to shift everything in your parenting.

Are you frustrated by parenting? Do you listen to the experts and try all the tips and strategies, but you're just not seeing the results that you want? Or are you lost as to where to start? Does it all seem so overwhelming with too much to learn? Are you yearning for community people who get it, who also don't want to threaten and punish to create cooperation?

Hi, I'm Hunter Clark Fields, and if you answered yes to any of these questions, I want you to seriously consider the Mindful Parenting Membership. You will be joining Hundreds of members who have discovered the path of mindful parenting and now have confidence and clarity in their parenting. This isn't just another parenting class.

This is an opportunity to really discover your unique, lasting relationship, not only with your children, but with yourself. It will translate into lasting, connected relationships, not only with your children, but your partner too. Let me change your life. Go to mindfulparentingcourses. com MindfulParentingCourse.

com to add your name to the waitlist so you will be the first to be notified when I open the membership for enrollment. I look forward to seeing you on the inside.

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