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How to Truly Advance the Needs of the Child between Separated Parents

I 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.

However 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.

However, all of that is the parentsí thinking and issues. What about the children?

Iíve 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 themselves.

Very 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 the parents.

This is a terrible dilemma for the child.

It 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 parents.

If 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.

Once 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.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
(905) 628-4847  

gary@yoursocialworker.com

www.yoursocialworker.com 
 
Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

 

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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20 Suter Crescent, Dundas, ON, Canada L9H 6R5 Tel: (905) 628-4847 Email: gary@yoursocialworker.com