Don't Become An Adversary To Your Child
Family breakup is a disruptive process that feels chaotic for all family members, and traumatic for some. Parents are responsible to work together to make sure that everyone in the family makes a successful transition to a new family structure that feels safe and secure and loving.
Some parents are unable or unwilling to accept responsibility for this basic parenting role. Instead they invest energy in blame, sabotage and competition. The traditional adversarial Family Court process sets up and reinforces this win/lose approach to sharing children, and results in children who feel divided and conflicted. It is easy for parents to get swept up in the contest to present the most compelling story to a theoretically neutral judge who decides whether Mom or Dad is the most convincing. In criminal systems, this process is sometimes referred to as accusatorial.
When accused, our immediate reaction is to defend. Especially when our bond to our child is at stake. Yet, investing in defense, documentation, zealous representation and advocacy does not leave resources of time or money for parenting. Children can't be put on a shelf while Mom and Dad fight it out. As difficult as it is, at least one parent needs to focus on the immediate daily needs and routines of the child or the outcome will be defeat for the little ones, regardless of which parent "wins."
You chose each other to co-create a child. The history and the details of your personal choice are matters for you to explore and understand, not stories to be used to injure, exploit, and harm your child.
Here is a list of "don'ts" for you, if you are the parent who is serious about protecting your child and truly placing your child's needs above the competition and battle between you and your coparent:
1 Don't say negative things to your children about your coparent.
2 Don't interfere with or limit your child's time with your coparent.
3 Don't block phone messages, letters, cards, or gifts from your coparent.
4 Don't make it difficult for your child to reach and communicate with your coparent.
5 Don't express displeasure when your child talks about or shows pictures of time with your coparent. Don't detach from your child when he shows affection for or says positive things about your coparent.
6 Don't say or imply that your coparent doesn't love your child.
7 Don't create situations that pressure your child to reject your coparent or to choose you instead.
8 Don't say things to make your child feel unsafe or insecure with your coparent.
9 Don't confide in your child about adult matters that your child shouldn't know, like marital concerns or financial disputes.
10 Don't ask your child to spy on or secretly obtain information about your coparent and report back to you.
11 Don't ask your child to keep secrets from your coparent about things your coparent should have been informed about.
12 Don't refer to your coparent by their first name or by a formal address and their last name (e.g. Ms Smith) when talking to your child.
13 Don't refer to your new partner or spouse as Mom or Dad and expect your child to do the same.
14 Don't pressure your child to rely only on your opinion and approval.
15 Don't encourage your child to disregard or think less of your coparent's rules, values, and authority.
16 Don't make it hard for your child or make your child feel bad about spending time with your coparent's extended family.
17 Don't create situations in which your child will be angry with or hurt by your coparent.
Many parents who read this list find themselves repeatedly saying or thinking "But..." "But..." "But..." That is the nature of an adversarial/accusatorial system of problem resolution. When you find yourself defending and reacting, take a deep breath and shift your focus and energy to your child!
Focus on being positive, taking the high road, and being fully present to love and nurture your child when you are with them.
And ask your coparent to collaborate instead of compete, to mediate instead of litigate.