From the Therapist's Desk

Children caught in the middle of Family Court disputes suffer a multitude of challenges. One of the most devastating is the loss of a loving parent. 

Sometimes the loss occurs because the trauma that led to the family breakup remains unaddressed for months as the family waits for a court date. Then several more months may pass while the Court works to figure out what is in the best interest of the child.  While the court process churns on, children don't wait to cope with trauma. Left on their own, children will find a way to make sense of the fear and insecurity because it is a matter of survival. No human organism can survive for very long when inundated with feelings of vulnerability and threat from frightening forces beyond our comprehension. Unfortunately, in terms of long term mental health outcomes, children generally will not cope in adaptive ways. By the time the court gets around to ordering counseling, the traumatic event and terrifying unknown have taken a toll and the defensive psychological protections have become rigid.

Sometimes the loss occurs because a parent has done something scary to or in front of the child and denies that it ever happened. Healing cannot occur without honesty, recognition of hurt, and a forgiveness process. If the parent won't or can't see the harm done to the child, estrangement will likely be the result.

Sometimes the loss occurs because one parent is determined to eliminate or greatly restrict the other parent from his or her own life, without regard for the urgent need of the child to have two loving parents for nurture and growth. This is a parent who has coped with the family break up in an unhealthy way. Instead of accepting and working through the grief, loss and mourning that follows the shattering of hopes and dreams, this parent resolves his or her own pain by blaming the other parent and embarking on a campaign to destroy the enemy who inflicted the deep emotional wound.

Family breakup is complicated and painful. Families need help immediately, not in weeks, months or years. Children can't wait for refuge from the storm of parents tossed and turned by emotional heartbreak. Children need help immediately. Children cannot afford to lose a loving parent because of a Court calendar or Court budget. Parents cannot afford to be left to struggle on their own with feelings of guilt, shame, hurt, disappointment, and anger. Everyone in the family needs help to cope and learn and move through the transition from living together to living apart.

Hannah's House exists to provide refuge, resources, support, and nurture to parents and children caught up in the turmoil of family breakup. When families break apart we are there to help repair the breaks and to work with the entire family to make a successful transition from one home to two homes.

Hannah's House also has services for parents who are contemplating a family breakup. We can help with the process from beginning to end. We have therapists who can help the parents make a plan that provides for the emotional, psychological and physical needs of each family member. Family breakup will be difficult but it does not have to be traumatic. Don't let your child lose a parent because of the Family Court process or because of your own insecurity.

Children need a relationship with both parents, and the people who love their parents. Children need to know that they are loved and that they are wanted. Parents have a responsibility to nurture the child's relationship with both parents and the extended friend and family network.

The focus in a family breakup must be on the needs of the child, not the needs of the parent. The focus must be on helping children thrive, not on dividing children "fairly" so a parent feels equal. Parents must open their hearts and minds to the child, and trust that loving the child in a warm and compassionate way is what feels "fair" to the child.