Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Interaction Styles of Divorced Parents

Divorced parents generally fall into one of several categories of interaction that affects their children's ability to adjust to divorce. They can be collaborative, cooperative, foes, or downright enemies. These interaction styles can impact the way they handle their parental responsibilities, which of course do not end when they are divorced.

Cooperative parents are good communicators who deal with anger in healthy ways that allow them to effectively manage any conlicts that occur. They are able to separate issues with their former spouse from parental responsibilities.

Parents who still have anger towards their former spouse do not communicate well. They are not effective co-parents, and conflict leaks into the relationship with the children.

Parents who are foes or enemies cling to wrongs about the marriage, often distorting them due to pain and anger related to unresolved marital difficulties. These emotions adversely affect the children, who feel the tension. This often results in problems for them that include psychosomatic complaints, decreased school performance or conflict with peers.

In some cases disconnect between the spouses occurs when one parent drops out of a child's life for short periods, often for longer times. When this happens a child is devastated by the abandonment, and behavior problems develop with the custodial parent. When a child has nowhere to channel their pain and rage in these instances, they often strike out against the parent they live with, making parenting a struggle.

If you are in any of the latter categories,there are solutions. If the other parent is receptive, make an appointment to talk with them away from the child. Make notes before that time to organize your thoughts and help you present yourself clearly. Focus on the child's well being, and how cooperative co-parenting would improve that. Take a business-like, matter of fact approach.

If necessary, use examples of problems children have been having that are resulting from conflict, but do that in an objective blame-free manner. Take responsibility for your part in the conflict and suggest that you both need to do better.

When this option doesn't work, seek counseling for you and your child to strenghten coping skills for you and them. If one parent has disconnected or dissapeared, take time to frequently reassure your child that the other parent loves them, but we can't control him or her. A good allegory of this is the THREE C'S:

1) You didn't Cause it
2) You can't Cure it
3) You can't Control it

With counseling and continued reinforcment with these techniques, the effects of negative interaction styles between divorced parents can be mitigated over time.