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Position To Interest While Managing Adjustment
separated parents have difficulty sorting out the ongoing care of the children
parent may hold a belief that for whatever reason, what they want equals what is
best for the child. However, what one parent wants may not be what the other
parent wants or believes is best.
some parents are tremendously angry, upset or sad about the events that led to
the separation and these feelings may cloud their judgment with regards to what
is in their children’s true interests for a good outcome come adulthood.
in some of these cases, parents are at odds with each other, both pulling for a
situation that reflects their respective position.
these times, parents may believe they have nothing in common with each other,
given how polarized their positions may be. Hence rather than discussing the
appropriateness of their positions and battling it out between them, it may be
better to begin a discussion with the outcomes they seek for their children,
parents will agree they want their children to be happy, productive, educated,
responsible and able to carry on respectful adult relationships. They will
likely both agree that they wouldn’t want the child to have anxiety the result
of worrying about parents behaviour between themselves given both in attendance
at their child’s graduation or wedding.
agreements form the best starting point to helping separated parents in
conflict, resolve the ongoing care of the children. With this common ground, the
issue is less what either parent wants in the here and now, but more how they
shall develop the roadmap to achieving the agreed upon outcome for the kids –
their mutual interests.
the agreed upon outcome reflects both parents interests for their child’s
future, rather than their current position on custody and access. So even in the
view of animosity, the issue is not who has which weekend, but rather, how do we
develop a plan that over time sees our children mature into well-functioning
change in perspective is aimed at changing parents view of the parenting
planning process, from a here and now perspective, to a developmental
perspective based on mutual interests.
may take a number of meetings with some parents to facilitate this shift in
perspective, particularly if one or both has some emotional healing to achieve.
challenge in helping parents make this shift is also in recognizing that one
parent may be ahead of the other in terms of an emotional adjustment to the
separation. In view of parents’ different emotional places or readiness to
move on, it may be necessary to help one parent slow down to wait for the other,
while at the same time helping the other parent cope and transition through a
range of feelings in the separation process to catch up with the parent further
ahead in the adjustment process.
parents sort out the ongoing care of the children between them is thus a
balancing act, helping them resist fighting over positions in favour of
developing mutual interests while at the same time managing the pace of change
given their emotional adjustment to come up with a developmental plan.
message to parents is to remember, at heart, both want what is best for the
kids. Some time may be needed to truly sort out what that is and time should be
afforded to each to make the necessary adjustments.
message to helpers is to resist being inducted into a battle of positions that
while resolution can bring about some degree of satisfaction for one parent,
will likely miss the mark for the other and almost certainly will not provide
for a durable outcome given developmental pressures that naturally arise as
Helping the parents will require managing their intensity, differences in emotional adjustment and intransigence of position, until both can be aligned with mutual long-term interests.
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Call Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops.
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