From the Therapist's Desk

CHILDREN NEED BOTH PARENTS

This is the core belief upon which all services at Hannah's Houseare based. Many parents respond to this core belief with a sentence that begin with these words: "Yes, but, ........". What follows may include real concerns and threats to the children; distorted fears and personal anxieties of the parent; or projections of bad intentions that actually exist within the accuser.

We respond to the parent with these words: "Yes, and, .......". The child needs to be safe. The child needs to feel as secure as possible. Once safety and security are established, the child NEEDS to have his or her own experience of the other parent without the influence or involvement of the concerned parent.

The primary parent sets the tone for the level of cooperation or conflict that emerges in the coparenting relationship. So, if that is you, you need to be willing to look in the mirror and ask yourself how you have contributed to the estrangement or conflict of the past and what you could have done differently. If there was nothing else you could have done, then what can you do now?

What are the trigger points that push your coping skills to the limit and result in words or behaviors you later regret? More importantly how will you keep your child away from your negativity and desire for revenge or failure now, if that is how you feel? If you insist on being "right" in every aspect of coparenting then you should walk away from the table now. If you are not willing to work, to try, to make yourself open and vulnerable to change then you are setting your own child up for a traumatic experience. You are also demonstrating an inability or unwillingness to act in the best interest of your child.

Don't pretend. Be genuine. In this case that means facing your fear and bearing the discomfort of not being in complete control of your child and yourself. The support of the primary custodial parent cannot be overstated in its critical importance to the success or failure of the effort to reintegrate an estranged parent into the existing family structure. If the primary parent is intent on ensuring the process fails, it will fail. If the primary parent is intent on ensuring the process succeeds, it has every chance of succeeding.

The primary parent needs as much support and counseling during the reintegration process as the returning parent does. Unfortunately we live in a world where families are divided by clinicians and the courts into "treatment units." And, very sadly, the unit is very rarely the entire family. How can you facilitate a successful transition in a family by only working with parts of the family?

The Transitions Family Program at Hannah's House works with the entire family system in our Intensive Family Restructuring Program approach which addresses the important history of the family, the fears and concerns of everyone, and which incorporates all the strengths of the family to work for the good of the whole.

We all have aspects of our Self that we are still discovering regardless of our age or life experience. Part of living respectfully and thoughtfully is a commitment to learn, develop, and become more truly who we are. And that means acknowledging that we all have fears, anxieties, motivations, and desires that distort our perceptions at times. We may exaggerate or minimize reality so that we feel comfortable and reassured.

Restructuring the family after a family breakup is one of the greatest challenges individuals face. Everyone has work to do. Everyone needs to learn new skills. Regardless of how much time has passed or what mistakes have been made or what human frailties have emerged...give your child the chance for a full and complete and loving family life. Take the chance for the sake of your child. You may be amazed how much you will gain!