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family/Kids in distress: What to do?
were going well. Child custody and access issues are settled. Then one parent remarries, a new family emerges and the
kids are in distress. The other parent determines the child needs
counseling or that a change in access is necessary to limit the child’s
exposure to the new family, viewed as the source of distress. The fight is
on again. Or need it be?
children in distress in the context of adjustment to a new blended family,
rather than just sending the kids off to counseling, the parents and their
partners should enter counseling or “parent education” or mediation
it is preferred for both natural parents and new partners to attend
counseling together, it is understood that this may not be possible. What
matters though is that all the adults see the same counselor (or educator,
or mediator) so the counselor gets a full view of the situation as opposed
to a one-sided or biased view. With an unbiased view, the counselor can
then help in the adjustment process knowing issues on both sides.
doesn’t necessarily mean restructuring the access regime. It may mean
identifying and sorting out feelings between former spouses regarding any
number of issues as well as issues within the newly blended family. All
pertinent matters as assessed by the counselor should be addressed in the
interest of the children.
can be very sensitive to their parents’ feelings and this alone can be a
great source of their distress over and above their own adjustment.
However, by meeting with the parents, even more can be achieved. In
addition to identifying emotional issues for resolution, issues such as
the children’s homework, activities, routines and matters of discipline
can be discussed. The view is to attain some consistency and stabilize the
children’s life within the entire family system consisting of both
parents and new family.
the parental issues of adjustment, management, communications and
boundaries are addressed the children’s distress often fades. They can
go back to concentrating on school and the like. So if a child is in
distress after a parent establishes a new relationship or family, the
parent is advised to take a deep breath and attend counseling or parent
education or mediation with the other parent and do this before changing
the access regime. Rushing to change the access regime only adds another
layer for adjustment and given the child will still go back and forth, the
original adjustment issues would remain. Nothing may be solved by a quick
change in access and problems can actually be compounded. It may sound
scary to the parents to deal with each other in counseling, but the
children will likely be better off for it and the children’s interest
was the goal in the first place.
in distress? Parents go to counseling first.
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.
20 Suter Crescent, Dundas, ON, Canada L9H 6R5 Tel: (905) 628-4847 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org