The first time I sat down with Juli Hall I was immediately struck by her calm soothing presence. I admit to having a small case of the nerves leading up to our meeting. Not only is this woman the Communication Program Director for a worldwide training company, but she is also the founder of an international charity, a film producer, small business owner, and a triathlete. But Juli managed to put me at ease within just a few minutes of my sitting down. I have since learned that this is just her way.
The first time I met Mark Kamin I had the feeling that I should be taking notes. Even though it was early in the morning, he was already firing on all cylinders, and articulated more meaningful content in an hour than many people do in an entire day. A native Houstonian and the President and Founder of an international management consulting firm based in Houston, Mark is the kind of man who is not satisfied with the ordinary. He doesn’t sit in one place for very long before inspiration requires him to respond and take action.
It should come as no surprise that these two extremely accomplished people met, fell in love, and got married to one another. Neither is it altogether shocking that, after fourteen years, they decided to get a divorce. The astonishing thing is what they have managed to do in the nearly twenty years since—remain friends and successfully co-parent their two daughters.
Statistics show that nationally almost half of all marriages end in divorce. Although the number was close to 50% for nearly a decade, the most recent reports show that it is falling, with some reports saying it could be as low as 40%. Even using the most conservative of those statistics, that still translates to over 1 million children every year who experience the divorce of their parents. And how are we doing, as a nation, at teaching these mostly well-intentioned parents how to do something they have never done before, which is to raise children in partnership with someone they are no longer married to? In a word–abysmal.
Currently, in the state of Texas, it is mandatory that parents take a court-approved training class in co-parenting before their divorce can be finalized. Most of these courses can be likened to something similar to online Defensive Driving–somewhat dry, technical, boring, just one more thing to check off the list.
Twenty years ago, when Mark and Juli were beginning this adventure of co-parenting, there were no such mandates. However, born out of an intense determination to keep their children’s welfare the number one priority, they chose a path not so well taken. They decided that they would somehow learn to get past their own hurts, anger, and frustration with each other, and remain partners in child-rearing, even if not partners in marriage.
The context ‘the kids come first’ was the overarching umbrella under which we did everything.
And it worked. Through trial and error, and a lot of swallowing of individual pride, they maneuvered the mostly treacherous landscape of post-divorce, raised two healthy, secure daughters, who have a great relationship with both of their parents, and are now two of the biggest advocates for their methods.
About ten years ago a family friend, who is also a family law attorney, suggested to Juli that she and Mark put together a program to help others learn to do what they had successfully done. That is when the idea for “Co-Parenting Into the Future” was born.
We created the context that our kids come first, but we also created the context that our relationship is going to inspire other people going through the same thing we went through.
When asked what makes their program different from other ones that are available, Mark responded,
We help people discover how they contributed to the situation that eventually led to the divorce. We teach them to get mastery of this, and then translate that mastery to other areas of life. This helps parents heal, and healthy parents are better parents.
In development for over ten years, Co-Parenting Into the Future is now available online, and meets all necessary requirements of the Texas State mandated parenting course, but it goes well beyond those requirements in scope and in nature. Just a few of their stated goals include:
- make the post-divorce relationship with the former spouse effortless and positive;
- resolve difficult issues involving the children, such as holidays, school events, discipline, education and social events;
- learn to create effective agreements and a peaceful way of interacting with the other parent;
- develop an understanding of “what happened” in the relationship;
- get beyond the anger and resentment so that these are less likely to impact the children’s futures;
- deal with the breakdowns of the relationship, and create a successful co-parenting relationship;
- learn how to create a co-parenting relationship which is not based on the past.
While divorce is not the path most of us would choose for our children, the fact is that it happens in almost half of the homes in America today. How do we take that “breakdown” of the nuclear family and reframe it as a “restructuring” of the family? Mark Kamin and Juli Hall figured it out, and now they are sharing what they know with others who are looking to do the same thing.
If you would like to learn more about the work that Mark and Juli are doing, or Co-Parenting Into the Future, check out their website at www.coparentingintothefuture.com.
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