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send_both_parents

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									                                                             righteously in their position and both parents are
                                                             remarkably defensive towards any insinuation that their
                                                             behaviour may be contributory to the child’s distress.
                                                             Both parents present with a profound sensitivity to
What’s a kid to do when parents hate each other?             feeling blamed. Discussing their dynamic with one
                                                             parent can trigger a defensive barrage of the issues of
Sometimes the animosity between separated parents is         the other parent.
so thick, you can cut it with a knife. In such cases both
parents deflect blame on the other while denying or          In situations like these, favourable outcomes for the
minimizing their own contribution to conflict.               child are best achieved by working with both parents.

In some instances the allegations of both parents are        The service provider must be well experienced in
unfounded. The parents are like oil and fire and simply      working with such high conflict situations and the
do not get along. They both may be hurt for the demise       dynamics as described. The approach requires expertise
of the relationship. They may feel embarrassed for the       with clinical assessment, mediation, education and
breakdown and need to vilify the other. Each stakes          reconciliation counselling.
out the position of being hard done by the other thus
gaining the sympathy of friends and family.                  Eventually, the parents must be brought along to
                                                             understand that their antagonistic tug of war is the
In other instances mutual allegations are founded. Both      toxicity hurting their child. In some situations both
have in fact acted untoward. Both have acted poorly          parents feel they must let go of the rope at the same
although not abusively. Yet, neither takes responsibility    time. In other situations some parents take the position
and both use the transgressions of the other to              that the other parent must go first with regard to
legitimize their own.                                        making amends or changes. The challenge is to achieve
                                                             a plan for both parents that encourages a relaxation of
Pity the children whose parents are so locked in mutual      the animosity and new collaborative behaviour. Finally,
despise. The child becomes the battleground. Each            the child needs to be brought into a session with both
parent begrudges the child’s relationship to the other.      parents where they demonstrate their maturity by
Even though a parent may hold their tongue, the              cooperating for the child’s sake and grant permission
attitude still exudes. The child lives with their distain.   for the child to love both parents equally.

The child is between a rock and a hard place. To             One never knows at the outset, if one or both parents
survive they learn to mask their feelings. To avoid the      can muster the maturity to take responsibility for their
disapproval of their parents they align with each parent     contribution to conflict. However, there is a secret to
through negative comments about the other. So when           ending tugs of war… Only one side has to let go. The
with mom the child tells bad stories of dad to gain          question is who is going to step up first.
mother’s approval and minimize tensions with her.
Then with dad the child tells bad stories of mom to          What’s a kid to do? Send both parents for help!
gain his approval and minimize tensions with him.
Sadly though, the strategy only feeds the conflict           Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
between the parents as they feel more justified in their     (905) 628-4847
position with the new ammunition delivered by the
child. Thus the parental conflict escalates and the child    gary@yoursocialworker.com
is subject to greater hostility.                             www.yoursocialworker.com
                                                             Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario,
Eventually the child breaks down under the strain of         Canada, consider him an expert on child development,
conflict between despising parents. The child’s distress     parent-child relations, marital and family therapy,
may take the form of school related problems, anxiety,       custody and access recommendations, social work and
depression, bullying, victimization and even physical        an expert for the purpose of giving a critique on a
complaints such as headaches and stomachaches.               Section 112 (social work) report. Call him for your next
Because of the pre-existing parental animosity and then      conference and for expert opinion on family matters.
stories of the child, both parents blame each other for      Services include counselling, mediation, assessment,
the child’s distress. Both parents present self-             assessment critiques and workshops.

								
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