Child Focused or Out of Focus Divorce?


by Ann Marie Termini~During the process of divorce and separation you may be struggling to redefine your relationship with your former partner as well as helping your child(ren) cope with the separation of the family.

Many couples experience some conflict at the immediate aftermath of divorce. However, for some couples, the conflict drags on for years, until it settles into a pattern of parental warfare. Parental conflict, no matter how long it lasts, is detrimental to your child’s healthy adjustment.

Of course, you love your child and would not knowingly do anything to hurt him or her. This powerful belief is so important to your child(ren)’s success and yours that it is often helpful to keep your child(ren)’s imagine clearly in focus especially when working with your co-parent during stressful times.

To keep the focus on the love you have for your child(ren) rather than engage in a hostile relationship with your former partner, use the image of your child(ren) as a starting place. Take a moment and think back to when your child was first born. Recall how perfectly content your child(ren) was nestled in your protective arms. Remember how much your child(ren) depended on you to keep him safe. Reminisce about the ways your child imitated your actions, repeating your words or copying your behaviors.

You played a significant role in your child’s life when he was younger. Yet, the safety you provide, remains significant throughout your child’s life, especially during a family separation. Your behaviors can guide him toward a healthy recovery or more serious consequences in his long-term emotional health.

Next, think of all the reasons you would protect your child from harm and ensure his or her long-term psychical and emotional well-being. They can be general reasons such as, “I want my daughter to grow up with a healthy self-esteem”, or specific reasons, “I suffered from a low self-esteem as I was growing up and I don’t want my daughter to experience the same thing.”

Take a moment and list the five reasons you would do whatever it takes to shield your child from parental conflict and focus on both their short-term and long-term well being. It can serve as your focal point whenever you are in doubt, need encouragement, evaluating your decisions, and choosing your day-to-day actions.

If you are concerned about the long-term consequences of conflict on your child, what more can you do about it? Remain child-focused when interacting with your co-parent. The only two individuals who have the power to ensure a child is protected from parental conflict are the same two people who have the power to improve the way problems between parents are handled today. Either singly or together you can make a commitment to remain child-focused. No one can do it for you. You have to decide if you want to alter the pattern of hostility and tension that surrounds your child(ren) and interferes with his or her happiness.

You might be thinking that if the other parent would change than that would solve the problem. However, there is a problem with that thinking: it will lead you right back where you are. It is like the old saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result”. The only way you will get something better for your child(ren) and yourself is by doing something different. Only you have the power to change yourself. You can take the lead to do whatever it takes to reduce conflict and tension between yourself and your co-parent.

If you are sincerely committed to remain child-focused, realize that you must give up negative and destructive behaviors. Avoid any conflict in your child’s presence. Learn new skills and techniques for handling problems that could potentially cause problems between you and your co-parent. Do not refer to your former partner as “my ex”. This emphasizes the relationship that existed in the past and implies that you want to “cross” them out of your life. Use words such as “My co-parent”, “my child’s other parent” or “my child’s mother/father” when referring to your former partner.

Use business-like skills when interacting with your co-parent. Maintain self control and watch your tone of voice and body language. Stay child-focused, while focusing on the problem not the other parent. Remain present-focused and use facts and observations. Use “I-Statements” and reflective listening skills. Reflective listening rephrases what the speaker believes without adding your own thoughts and opinions. It validates the speaker by letting them know that you are listening and understand their concerns. It may decrease the tension. Most importantly, allow your child to love both parents and recognize that they have to homes.


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About Ann Marie Termini

Ann Marie Termini, Ed.S., M.S., LPC is co-founder and director of the Cooperative Parenting Institute in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. She has worked with children and families since 1979. Ann Marie has co-authored several books including Cooperative Parenting and Divorce: 8-Week group program for separating parents, Cooperative Parenting and Divorce: A Parent Guide to Effective Co-Parenting, The Psychotherapist as Parent Coordinator in High Conflict Divorce: Strategies and Techniques and Crossroads. Respected in their field, Ann Marie has conducted numerous seminars on the international and national levels. She has trained parenting coordinators since 1997, and as a result, co-authored the first and only comprehensive model of parenting coordination.

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