Researchers argue that children's voices too often are not heard in decisions that affect them during divorce, leading to resentment, anger, and damage to parent-child relationships that persist into adulthood.
If both parents are capable of having safe and healthy relationships with their children, the importance of having both parents involved in a child’s life cannot be overstated.
Often the relationship between the mother and father is badly strained. We know that chronically high conflict situations and negative emotions take a big toll on the family.
Studies have shown that positive relationships with both mother and father are associated with the overall well-being of children. Children who have loving relationships with both parents tend to be socially competent, are physically and psychologically healthy, reach academic achievement, and internalize their parent's values as their own. However, children who have a negative relationship with one or both parents tend to have numerous problems throughout their lives. The rejection that they feel from Mom or Dad may lead to issues such as:
According to researchers, even though rejection from a mother is associated with all of these outcomes, evidence reviewed suggests that rejection from a father is even more strongly associated with many of the negative outcomes shown above.
||Drug and alcohol abuse
(Link: A Child’s Rights When Parents Separate)
Making Fragile and Divided Families Work
Families are considered “fragile” if the parents were not married, and “divided” if the parents were married and subsequently separated and/or divorced.
In either case, a child’s ability to deal with the fact that his or her parents do not live together varies. Much depends on how the parents communicate and continue to treat one another as they co-parent while living apart.
Parents living apart will need to reorganize their lives. There are inconveniences and difficulties. This reorganization takes work. A good Parenting Plan can help parents share the responsibility for the lives their children lead, and lessen the likelihood of misunderstandings and conflict.
Many parents living apart do overcome the difficulties when they are determined to create two parallel working homes out of one fragile or divided home. This does not mean that each home must have identical house rules; it means that each parent should be working to create a home in which a child’s physical, mental, spiritual, emotional and social needs are met - as that parent sees fit.
In fact, attempting to force one parent to behave identically to the other is a sure way to create an atmosphere of disrespect and ongoing conflict. It sends the message that one parent believes his or her judgment and ability are superior – and more important – than the other parent’s judgment and ability.
Despite the anger that may exist between parents, the best approach is to acknowledge that the parent who is spending time with the child should be the one making the moment-to-moment decisions necessary, as long as the child is safe. Time spent with a child is a parent’s “period of responsibility” when the child’s needs are the primary concern.
It is more harmful to “bad mouth” the other parent than it is to ask a child to adjust to differences in parenting styles. If mom and dad can find a way to use a child-centered and respectful approach, all family members – especially mom, dad, and child - will reap the rewards of their hard work.
Studies show that mothers and fathers influence their children’s development in similar ways regarding the child’s morality, social competence, academic achievement and psychological development. A mom is a protector, role model, rule setter, nurturer, supporter, monitor, playmate and teacher.*
A non-residential mother's engagement, accessibility and responsibility - just as in the case of the non-residential father - are imperative to raising a child who will adjust well in the home and out in the world.
A residential mother who is living apart from the child’s father can set the stage to nurture a more positive relationship between the child and non-residential parent. Putting aside one’s anger at the other parent in order to focus on the well-being of the child is an important task for both parents, and a residential mother has a terrific amount of influence on the productivity of the ongoing relationships.
*Source: US Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics - Working Paper No. 2001-02