Divorce poison must be left in the bottle because children deserve no less. Recent studies published in the Journal of Family Psychology have looked at outcomes when parents undermine one another, compete for their child’s attention, criticise one another in front of the child and give opposing directives. When a father undermines a mother’s parenting of a toddler, boys are more likely to show ADHD symptoms 5 yrs. later. Girls are more likely to complain of headaches or stomach aches and both gender may act out with aggression or display irritability.
The results show that 2 yrs. olds are more upset when their mother is undermined (as their usual primary care-giver) although the effect is much worse when both parents are undermining each other.
Children in divorce in these situations often feel compelled to choose between their parents.
But children love both their parents. Children in divorce love both their parents. They are entitled to love both their parents.
Divorce puts children in a very difficult position, between the people they most love. Knowing that the bond between their parents is breaking and at worst, broken down completely and toxic, the feelings they experience can be overwhelming. So much so that children may often align with one parent and ‘reject’ the other. Children can be desperate for a sense of belonging. It would be a mistake to think your children are not feeling similar emotions.
So how can the voice of the child in divorce be truly heard? Buried under the debris of their parent’s crumbling spousal relationship? If both parents are locking horns, who is available for the children? Your children need a safe haven, away from the barbs and trajectories which sadly can often come with separation. Remember, your children didn’t ask for this.
And you? As parents of divorce you can feel helpless in all of this – sometimes so caught up in your own feelings, worries and concerns that you are emotionally unavailable to the children. You are busy attending to your own needs and emotions. In all of this how can co-parenting work?
Divorce itself doesn’t have to mean an emotional earthquake and you, as their parents are in charge of the way in which your children will experience this. Fundamental to your relationship with your children, as parents of divorce, is to be able to support even a ‘hint’ of the bond you once had with your ex. That doesn’t mean be ‘friends’ or show ‘affection’ but to acknowledge and honour their place as your child’s other parent. That way, by engaging in a positive co-parenting relationship with a co-parenting plan you both feel works and is fair, you will nourish your child’s sense of self, avoiding many of the pitfalls of the aftermath of family separation.
If you would like to learn more about achieving a successful co-parenting plan and learn how to keep the divorce poison in the bottle in a way that won’t destroy you or your family in the process, please telephone the office on 01279 211657 for a fully confidential and free, no obligation discussion of your needs and one of our mediators will talk you through our step by step mediation process.