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Divorce Blog

The Best Parent for a Child is Both Parents

By Karen Stewart

Both parents measuring up kidsSometimes parents feel upset by all the changes that family restructuring brings. The qualities that the divorcing parent doesn’t like about the other parent is shared either indirectly or directly with the child. Let me share what I mean with some examples of more typical situations.

A mother implicitly imparts to a child that he or she is not safe with the father by saying, “Call me as soon as you get there to let me know you are okay.” “If you get scared, you call me right away. Okay?” “I’ll come to get you if you want to come home.” “Don’t let your father keep you out too late.”

A father might say, “Your mother isn’t forgetting to put you to bed on time, is she?” “Remember to tell your mother that you want to spend more time with your daddy, okay?” “Who stays at the house overnight?” “I worry about you all the time.” “Call me every day and let me know that you are okay.”

When parents separate, they naturally tend to focus on what they dislike about each other. Acting out these feelings, however, can be very damaging to each other and especially to their children. It takes true maturity from each parent to understand he or she must strive to protect the child’s relationship with the other parent.

When one parent is not careful to protect the child’s relationship with the other parent, a process called parent alienation takes place. Alienation is an attempt to subtly make one parent look like he or she is a better parent than the other. If the alienation is pointed out to these parents, most of them have enough control to realize that this is harmful to children and will stop it. A more serious form of alienation occurs with parents who have little control over their responses to stressful situations. When their anger is triggered, they lose control of appropriate boundaries.

I have found that these parents with some coaching, can be shown how to choose more responsible behaviour. One simple change I might recommend is to change the message from “Call me as soon as you get there…” to “I know your daddy (mommy) loves you and wants you to have a fun time together.” This may seem like the last thing you want to say about the other parent and yet, it may be the best thing you have done by striving to protect the child’s relationship with the other parent. This is, what is meant by “in the best interest of the child.” Have you ever considered a Parenting Coach to help establish your child’s relationship with you? Give us a call if you want to know more about the services offered by a Parenting Coach.