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How to Truly Advance the
Needs of the Child between Separated Parents
have chatted with many children whose parents are in the throes of a divorce
where one parent had little to do with them before the separation. The other
parent may hold the view that the former, based on lack of effort doesnít
deserve much time with the children after the separation or that given that is
what the children may be used to, the children wouldnít want anything
different on a go-forward basis.
post separation, these same parents may seek more time with their children. They
may realize they cannot rely upon the other parent to keep their image alive on
their behalf to the kids and they often come to realize how much they missed for
not being present for whatever reason.
all of that is the parentsí thinking and issues. What about the children?
long since learned that these children are protective about their parentsí
feelings and donít often report to them what their needs, hopes or longings
are. They are also dependent upon their parents for survival and they have
witnessed the animosity and behavior between their parents, such that they do
not want to endanger their own sense of survival and certainly would not want to
act is any such way as to bring the wrath witnessed between their parents upon
often, these children while unhappy about the parental separation none-the-less
secretly feel good about the new-found attention from the otherwise
less-involved parent. These are kids who had secretly longed to feel fully
valued by both parents and now experiencing the absent parent being or seeking
to be more involved, they are pleased. This is so, even if the child does not
show it The child may only be fearful that the involved parent may feel
unappreciated for now appreciating the less-involved parentís involvement.
Pity the child who feels a need to balance their own needs with the issues of
is a terrible dilemma for the child.
certainly may upset a parent who for years may have tried to cajole the
less-involved parent to be more engaged with the kids who all-of-a-sudden is
more involved post-separation. It may cause the more involved parent to question
the motivations of that parent. Hereís the rub though; even if the
less-involved parentís motive for greater involvement isnít the most
altruistic, from your childís experience it may still be felt as positive and
in fact may be positive. Your child doesnít stand there to question parental
motivations. From your childís perspective, he or she may be finally enjoying
the attention and validation previously missed. The other issues belong to the
you want to really uncover your childís views and feelings, this is best done
with the help of a neutral third party Ė a person who has experience and
expertise chatting with children of separated parents. We speak of this as
hearing the voice of the child and doing so requires a balanced process with the
involvement of both parents.
the voice of the child has been heard, then the neutral helper who facilitated
the childís voice can bring the childís feelings, views and experience of
their life and parental separation to the parentsí attention for the parents
to be informed. On the basis of information provided, then the parents may be in
a better place to meet their childís needs. If indeed there were untoward
issues, it may be instructive for a parent to be advised of those issues from
the perspective of the child. It may be helpful to have a better appreciation of
your childís experience and needs when considering a parenting plan.
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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