Title: “Helping Your Child Survive a Difficult Divorce” by Lynne Namka, Ed. D. (Tucson, Arizona: © 2000)
Description: “A Psychologist Who has Dealt with the Pain of Many Children Whose Parents Act Irrationally During Divorce Tells It Like It Is!”
In the article “Helping Your Child Survive a Difficult Divorce”, psychologist and author, Lynne Namka shares insights on how the behavior of parents during or after a divorce impacts the children who are caught in the middle. Children are hurt when parents war against each other, or when one parent displays “negative behavior” towards the other during or after divorce. This article offers positive solutions to identify problematic behavior, tips on healing from divorce, and tips on how to identify your motives and behaviors so you can co-parent more effectively.
Lynne advises, “Do not let your child be a witness to your anger at his or her other parent. Belittling your child’s mother or father is a form of child abuse that can affect your child’s self esteem permanently. Your child is half of the other parent. If you criticize your ex, your child will feel ashamed of half of him or herself. You WILL hurt your child if you habitually yell at your ex, trash talk about them, if you are self righteous in explaining how wrong their point of view is or if you try to evade the legal custody arrangement.”
“Helping Your Child” also explains how one parent’s efforts to exert power and control over the other parent can escalate to emotional and psychological abuse.
Seeking power and control over the parent is commonly motivated by:
· A parent’s need to control the person they are divorcing
· Anger towards the other parent
· An abuser may try to avoid their own feelings of powerlessness by exerting power and control over another person
· The need to be right, at any cost
· Avoiding responsibility for their actions in the marriage, in combination with a sense of guilt, may also cause a parent to cast blame on another parent
· Inability to let go of the past or living in the past
· Avoiding your own feelings of anger, hurt and resentment by dumping or venting them onto the ex partner
Lynn says that the maturity level of a parent affects how they deal with the divorce, and with their own emotions. A parent who is able to control their emotions is better able to co-parent, and in turn the child experiences more stability.
If you are dealing with anger towards another parent, Lynne advises seeking therapy, finding a support group or taking a divorce recovery or anger management class. She says, “Make your goal to get a working relationship with the other parent of your child. If you are willing to see how your angry actions affect your child and do something about it, your child has the best chance for a happy future. The pain of the divorce can start to heal for everyone.”
If your ex partner is engaging in abusive or harmful behavior, and you feel that your safety or that of your child is at risk, seek help from an experienced professional or domestic violence organization. In relationships where domestic violence is present, the most dangerous time for the victim is when leaving the perpetrator, as that is when the abuse escalates. Abusers may also use the child as a pawn to control, dominate or seek revenge against the other parent (domestic violence by proxy) or engage in alienation tactics.
“Helping Your Child” also offers a list of do’s and don’t’s for parents co-parenting after divorce, and some helpful resources, for parents to identify problematic behavior and find positive ways to change.
The article ends with a statement called “The Rights of a Child in Divorce”, which I will share here. When you talk about the “best interest” or “doing what is best” for a child the message and intent can get confused, or enmeshed with what the adult is seeking. “The Rights of a Child in a Divorce” offers both a perspective from a child while also offering a guide for parents.
The Rights of a Child in a Divorce
· To be told that my mother and father still love me and will never divorce me.
· To be told that the divorce is not my fault and not to be told about the adult problems that caused it.
· To be treated as a human being—not as another piece of property to be fought over, bargained over or threatened.
· To have decisions about me based on my best interest, rather than past wrongs, hurt feelings, or parent’s needs.
· To love both my parents without being forced to choose or feel guilty.
· To know both my parents through regular, frequent involvement in my life.
· To have the financial support of both my father and mother.
· To be spared hearing bad hurtful comments about either of my parents which have no useful purpose.
· Not to be asked to tell a lie or act as a spy or messenger.
· To be allowed to care about others without having to choose or feel guilty.