Themes in Divorce
- loyalty binds
- children and parents manipulate each other
Children see divorce as a threat to their security. They feel:
- fear of being abandoned
- confused about who to love
- they caused the conflict between their Mom and Dad
- responsible for bringing their parents back together
- persistent stress
- loss of motivation for school
- loss of motivation for making friends
- loss of motivation for having fun
- unusually rebellious
- unusually argumentative
- too tired
- too restless
Divorce Requires the Family to
- restructure its system
- set new rules that ensure support and caring
- set new boundaries
Research shows that children suffer when their fathers are absent
from their lives.
Boys often experience the following:
- lower self esteem
- rejection by their peers
- adverse focus in decision-making
Girls show negative effects
- in social development
- self-image - not pretty enough
- self-concept - not affectionate enough
- in decision-making skills
- self-concept - not smart enough
When children see high conflict in their parents' divorce, they
- experience greater difficulty in sorting out their feelings
- feel "caught" between the parents
- experience deep depression
- experience high anxiety
- take part in deviant behavior
- feel guilty, angry and alone
Understand this: children can sense the vibrations of the anger even
when the parents pretend everything is okay while with them.
Divorce is harder on children when a parent
- is required to have no contact with the family
- is prohibited from making temporary arrangements that include the
- is prohibited from setting a temporary separation
A parent who tries to alienate the child from the other parent
commits a form of emotional abuse. This form of emotional abuse
programs the child for these conditions:
- lifelong alienation from a loving parent
- lifelong psychiatric disturbance
- to become enmeshed with the alienating parent
- to take on the alienating parent's hatreds, emotions and desires
- to be unable to distinguish his own feelings from that of the
A child who is fully alienated from one parent by the other
- does not wish to have contact with the alienated parent
- expresses only negative feelings for the alienated parent
- expresses only positive feelings for the alienating parent
- loses the range of feelings for both parents that most children have
To deprive a child of a healthy relationship with one parent is
- is psychologically harmful to the child
- endangers the mental health of the parents
- threatens the child's psychological development
- causes the child to believe he/she must choose which of the two parents
he/she will love more.
The harm on the child is the same regardless of why a parent may
choose to exclude the other parent from the child's life.
To have to choose between parents to exclude one parent from the
child's life creates injury that cannot be repaired.
Every effort must be made to insure the emotion bond of the child
with both parents.
For balanced development the child needs contact with adults of both
Unless abuse is involved, there is no good reason to keep a child
away from either parent. The child needs to spend significant and
quality time with each parent.
Even when abuse has occurred, a child loves that parent. To assure
that the child is safe during contacts with the parent who abused, the
following need to work together:
A separating family needs to make its own changes as they restructure
their family system. They must
- decide the roles and the rules themselves
- set the new boundaries without others telling them what or how to do
The family itself must do the personal work to adjust to changes
brought on by the divorce.
When professionals and others are too closely involved in the
- keeps family members from learning what they need to learn.
- causes the divorce process to get stuck and
- keeps family members from accomplishing the tasks that enable them to
support and care for each other.
When is intervention too much?
Intervention, if absolutely necessary, can be used to
- point out problems that family members overlooked.
- ask questions so family members can see those issues.
- point out "normal" themes.
- point out "damaging" themes.
Any more than this interferes with their progress.
If professionals or others insist on being intimately involved in the
divorce process, they become part of the family system. This is
called a divorce impasse system.
- Family members rely on the professionals or others instead of
themselves to make the important decisions.
- Family members and professionals align against other members of the
family system to create loyalty binds.
- All members of the divorce impasse system are affected by the loyalty
struggles and may become polarized.
For each problem discussed here, remedies exist to
help parents and children adjust to the changes. The thing is
to get through the pain of the divorce and move on with their lives.
Our workbooks for Moms and for Dads
ask the important questions that point to problems
leave it up to parents to decide what to do
point out self-defeating reactions
give ways to spot problems and solutions
give ways to get past the pain
show ways to create resolution dramas
As with our workbooks for children and for teenagers,
Love Energy and Light are the prevailing resources we apply.