“Children ought not be victims of the choices adults make for them,” said Wade Horn (U.S. Assistant Secretary for Children and Families under President George W. Bush.)
This statement is true and also undeniably sad, because regardless of how “good” we attempt to be during a divorce to each other, or regardless of all the reasons why we divorce, our children still fall victim to the large and abrupt changes that occur when parents become divided. This is bad enough, but worse, is that oftentimes parents end up in a brutal, long-lasting, very expensive, custody battle with their children being thrown in the middle of the ring. While this is almost never a goal, it is far too often a result. When parents do not educate themselves and/or do not concern themselves with what is best for the children in terms of co-parenting; misunderstandings, hurt feelings, power differentials, fears, sometimes pride and egos, can all get in the way of developing a new, healthy family structure that includes open and shared communication and parenting between mother and father. This is incredibly painful and difficult for all involved, and can absolutely be avoided. There is an overwhelming weight of scientific research that clearly demonstrates that children do better with two parents involved in their lives. While divorce may be the best solution for you as a couple, healthy co-parenting must accompany this choice to put your children in the best possible position to build trust and resiliency in their lives, despite the challenge of having divorced parents.
Effective co-parenting skills are necessary to navigate this new phase of life. It is entirely possible to create safety, civility and respect with regards to parenting together after separation or divorce. In therapy we will look at what the current challenges are and work to tear down any walls that have been built. It’s important to remember that while the two parents have divorced each other, neither of them divorced their children and they will always have the business relationship of parenting their children together. There’s a myriad of styles of co-parenting, but what is vital to all styles are these things:
- Both parents have empathy of the other parent’s position
- Communication is open, honest, and often
- Parents employ similar rules at each house for consistency
- Talk about the other parent is supportive and positive
When there has been a rift between a parent and a child, or a parent is just now coming back into a child’s life after a long absence, natural difficulties arise. We will discuss how best to move through this and how to employ healthy boundaries and tools that will enable the best possible relationships to evolve.
There are occasions during the process of divorce, for several reasons, a parent and a child (or children) have been separated for period of time. Re-unifying becomes important and necessary and is sometimes court ordered. In re-unification therapy I will meet with both parents individually to determine if re-unification is appropriate and I educate each parent on the process, then meet with them together if necessary. The child or children will then have sessions with me discussing their experiences and desires so I can have a clear picture of what is needed to move forward. Next, I will have sessions with one or both parents together with the child or children. The purpose of these sessions is to have understanding of one another, to have healing conversations and to put effective relationship building practices in place. We discuss goals for the relationships and begin implementation. Sessions continue while visits begin happening, and in session we process the dynamics unfolding during re-unification, such as behaviors, emotions, concerns and thoughts. When the relationship is working and feels safe, we transition out of sessions.
Re-unification therapy can be time consuming and does cost money, however it is extremely beneficial if a parent and child have been separated and there is a block in the connection and desire to be together. While it may seem like an enormous mountain to climb – and admittedly it does take time, focus, work, and an honest reevaluation of ideals – relationships can heal and love can resurface.
It is up to both parents to move beyond the marital pain and differences that led to divorce, and heartily work together to assure that their children will have both parents active and engaged in their lives. This is responsible parenting and it will assuredly lead to needed and deserved peace, fulfillment and even joy in the family system.