From the Therapist's Desk

Losing a Parent During a Family Breakup

In the years following a separation or divorce, 33-40% of children lose contact with a biological parent. Loss of contact with a parent can deeply impact the child emotionally, developmentally, socially, and academically throughout the course of their lifetime. At the very least, children abandoned by a parent can be haunted by a lifelong feeling of emptiness and may experience a number of life challenges:

1 Feelings of shame, guilt, rejection, anger, sadness and confusion

2 A belief that they are somehow not worthy of the absent parent's love and presence

3 Poor school performance

4 Difficulty forming intimate relationships

5 Increased use of alcohol and drugs

6 More aggressive, acting out behaviors

7 A need to create a story that explains the parent's absence from their life

8 A deep desire to know that they are missed and thought about by the absent parent.

Divorce or separation create tremendous challenges for the parents. Depending on the quality of the couples relationship pre-breakup, the transition to living separately can be more or less difficult. In general, the more conflict and unresolved couples issues that exist before the breakup the more difficult it will be for the family to find peace afterwards.

There are many reasons parents and children lose contact:

1 Ongoing conflict between the parents over parenting and custody issues

2 The inability to provide good caretaking due to mental illness, alcohol and/or drug abuse

3 The child's and/or parent's difficulty adjusting to the separation or divorce

4 Relocation of a parent more than 60 miles from the child

5 Safety issues such as domestic violence and/or child abuse

6 Alienating behaviors by the other parent

7 Lack of knowledge by father that a biological child exists

8 The choice of the parent to not be involved due to immaturity or concerns about child support obligations

9 Incarceration

Once the issues that led to the loss of contact begin to resolve, a parent often wishes to reestablish, or perhaps establish for the first time, a relationship with their children.

Children who are able to enjoy a warm and loving relationship with both of their parents fare better over time than children who lose one of the parents.

If you are a parent who lost a relationship with your child and are ready to invest the time and energy (and patience) required, contact Transitions Family Program at Hannah's House about our Comprehensive Family Restructuring Therapy process. It may be a good solution for you.