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the Goal of Parenting Coordination?
That is a question I
was asked recently when speaking with some colleagues.
When I turned the
question around, the colleagues spoke in terms of client identified goals and in
motherhood statements such as the parents being able to get along although
acknowledging that as often wishful thinking.
With that I provided
my goal, typically held private: I want the kids to survive their adolescence.
That’s right, my goal is very basic, stay alive. Don’t suicide. Live to be
an adult and figure the rest out then.
This goal is
consistent with the experience of The Honorable Judge Jaime R. Román, out of
In the January 2015
edition of Family Law News, published by the State Bar of California, The
Honorable Judge Jaime R. Román lamented the fact that he counted 17 suicides of
children embroiled in family law matters over the course of his 3 1/2 year
tenure as a family court judge.[i]
That is a huge number, quite disproportionate to what would be seen in the
The truth of the
matter is the higher the parental conflict, the greater the likelihood of mental
and behavioural health problems in their children. Parents only seek Parenting
Coordination because their conflict is deemed high. By extension, their children
are already at an increased risk of death come adolescence.
Apart from those
children who do not suicide, yet whose parents do not ratchet down their
conflict or do not contain their emotions or do not refrain from making one or
both lives miserable, we see children poorly to barely coping who do not finish
school and/or engaged in drug or alcohol use and/or are inappropriately sexually
active and/or are getting themselves in trouble with the law, quite often for
their violence perpetrated towards their own parents by that point.
My view is that unless
the child is alive, as a very basic goal, concentrating on the other albeit
reasonable goals of school attendance, sobriety and contained behavior, is
actually a distraction. Indeed as one or other parent may complain about those
issues, I may be reminding them that from the outset of service, their son or
daughter was either self-mutilating and/or suicidal and that as a result of
service, those risks have been substantially reduced.
High conflict between
separated parents is a cause of mental cancer to the child. No matter how good
the service provider, if the parents cannot limit or control themselves, our
work to help facilitate a child’s reasonable mental health and development is
Coordinator’s we would love to see children succeed to become happy, well
adjusted, responsible adults. That is why we do the work. With an eye to
survival, we may make decisions on a child’s behalf that is unpopular with a
parent. Lord knows we do not do this for the vitriol and badmouthing often
targeted at us when a parent takes issue with our guidance or arbitration award.
But before a child can succeed with higher life goals, that child needs to
survive the parental conflict.
suicide count is astounding. My goal is to take a bite out of it.
parents will never get this. However, those that do are appreciative and improve
their child’s chance at a better outcome.
[i] The Honorable Judge Jaime R. Román, We Can Make a Difference, Family Law News· ISSUE 1, 2015 · VOL. 37 No. 1, pg. 30
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
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