By Rosalind Sedacca, CCT
April 25th was the annual recognition of Parental Alienation Awareness Day. It is a time for all divorced parents to reflect on their relationship with their former spouse and how it may be subtly or overtly affecting the emotional and psychological well-being of their children.
Often we rationalize our actions and decisions regarding our Ex as justified but don’t focus on how it impacts our innocent children who usually are quite attached to getting love and support from both parents.
One behavior commonly overlooked as a very hurtful aspect of Parental Alienation involves one parent keeping the other, target parent, from contact with the children – as punishment.
Threatening To Keep Your Ex From the Kids
Divorced parents can quickly learn ways to abuse their power over the other parent by using the children as a lever. Among the most harmful of these types of manipulations is making demands and threatening to eliminate or restrict contact with the kids if your ex doesn’t agree.
Most all divorced parents have incidents and expectations that cause great frustration or anger toward their ex. But you’re stepping over the line when you make the kids a pawn in your negotiations. Demanding that your ex does something or stops another behavior and using contact with the children as punishment not only hurts your ex. It hurts, scars, confuses and frustrates your children, as well.
Fighting In Any Form Around Your Children
Putting your kids in the midst of parental conflict is toxic and has proven to be one of the greatest causes of post-divorce family problems. Children are torn about taking sides. It’s a no-win situation because they feel guilty regardless of how they choose.
Even if your ex is in some ways a negative influence on your children, there may be other aspects of the relationship in which the contact is positive, beneficial and nurturing. Let your children make the decision about whether to minimize contact with their other parent, based on their own experiences. Never let your personal bitterness influence whether your children have a relationship and an emotional connection with their Dad or Mom – unless there is actual abuse that threatens their well-being.
Remember that your divorce is between Mom and Dad, and not your relationship with your children. All children need positive role models of responsible parenting. They benefit from seeing two mature adults interacting effectively as parents for the sake of their kids. Children thrive under the attention of both parents. Don’t deny them the psychological value of knowing both Mom and Dad are there for them, continue to love them and will be nurturing them through the years ahead – despite the divorce.
That affirmation of support will get your kids through challenges ahead that all children face as they progress through school, tackle their own interpersonal relationships and learn how to be positive, productive citizens in this world. Be a hero in your children’s lives. Bite your tongue, vent to your friends, and make responsible decisions you can be proud of as a parent – for the sake of your kids!
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Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is author of the internationally acclaimed ebook How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! To grab her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting along with her ezine, coaching services and other valuable resources for parents go to: www.childcentereddivorce.com.