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This is one of a series of lesson-6 articles
on howto parent effectively. From
36 years' clinical experience and
research, this article offers practical keys to avoiding and resolving most
divorce-related parenting disputes, like battles over child custody,
visitation, responsibilities, and financial support.
If you know minor or adult kids (including yourself) who's parents are
divorcing, keep them in mind as you read this.
Here, "effective parenting" means "filling the normal and special
needs of each minor child well enough over 20 years while parents fill their
own needs well enough. Traditionally, people hold the birth parents
responsible for raising a child. In reality, the whole extended
(multigenerational) family shares this responsibility ("It takes a village
to raise a child.") Do you agree?
Several key needs of typical young kids are...
to feel consistently safe
enough now and in the future; and
to feel wanted, noticed, and
loved, and they need...
to learn how to solve
personal and relationship problems effectively.; and...
to be guilt-free kids instead
of over-responsible little adults caretaking one or both parents.
Significant fighting, blaming, distrust, and hostility between parents before and after physical separation makes filling
these needs hard or impossible. So the best parental option is...
stress, mates and their respective parents should...
seek and accept parenting
counsel from experienced caregivers.
What percent of
the parents you know (including your own) could how and why to do each of
Millions of parents separate and divorce every year.
Many disagree significantly over child custody, visitations, financial
support, holidays, religion, vacations, health, education, activities, and who is the more
effective parent. They also may disagree over informal and legal parenting
agreements that define which parent is responsible for what with
each minor child.
These parenting disputes range from trivial to bitter, verbal to legal, and
episodic to chronic. They often polarize families into combative camps,
which compounds the disagreements and stresses for everyone - specially the
minor kids involved. These disputes lower the family's
nurturance level, which puts kids at risk of developmental slowdown and psychological
Major divorce-related parenting disputes
can involve lawyers,
mediators, mental-health evaluators, social workers, and family-court judges.
This can amplify and prolong family stress because of these "outsiders'" differing
opinions, values, and advice.
Many divorcing parents have trouble keeping relationship disputes and frustrations separate
from parenting disagreements. Another major factor in family disputes is
the age, gender, and personalities of minor kids. They can vary from passive
and quiet to reactive, outspoken, opinionated, and aggressive. They may
favor one parent over the other. The same is
true of relatives and inlaws - specially grandparents.
It's estimated that well over half of divorcing American parents commit to a new mate within
several years of their separation, forming or expanding a
new partner may or may not have kids of their own and one or more ex mates.
Stepparents have their own needs and agenda, and may or may not
support their mate against "the other parent."
relationships are complicated and conflictual.
Adults and kids
face a range of alien new
problems that they usually aren't prepared to
resolve effectively. Few clinical and legal professionals are trained to
provide effective help. U.S. re/divorce
rates are estimated to be higher (60+ %) than first divorces (45-50%). Most
of them are stepfamilies.
post-divorce parenting disputes are hard to resolve because average family members and supporters struggle over a range of
(symptoms). They're unaware of the primary causes of these
problems, so they keep recurring. This puts dependent kids at significant risk of inheriting the toxic
effects of the epidemic [wounds + unawareness]
cycle that is
Bottom line - parenting minor kids
effectively is a multi-decade challenge under the best circumstances. It is
a far greater challenge during family reorganization from divorce and
Before reading further, pause and reflect: what do you think
really causes most parenting conflicts in
Compare your ideas to these:
The Primary Problems
This brief YouTube video summarizes some of what you'll read below.
typical disputes between divorcing parents are superficial, what are the
underlyingreal problems adults need to resolve? From
experience as a family-systems therapist with hundreds of divorcing
families and stepfamilies, I propose that the root causes are a mix of
1) The master problem is that
average family adults aren't aware of the lethal [wounds + unawareness]
cycle passing down and harming their generations, and no one is
alerting them to this. That means...
2) One or more divorcing
parents - and usually other family adults - are psychologically wounded and unaware of _ what that
_ what to
do about it. Key family
advisors and supporters may be significantly wounded and unaware also.
3) Typical divorcing
parents and other family adults and supporters are also unaware of key
including these primary problems. They don't know what
they don't know, or what their ignorance means for themselves and their
Their lack of knowledge promotes...
complaining, blaming, guilts,
shame, fighting, arguing, and avoiding, vs. effective thinking and
problem-solving..Related problems are inability to separate
surface needs from primary needs, and marital problems from parenting ones;
an inability to admit and
barriers to harmonious ex-mate and parent-child
incomplete grieving of
personal and family
losses (broken bonds) in family adults and kids. This promotes a web of
other problems, like "rageaholism,"
addictions, "depression," isolation, obesity, and ill health;
psychological wounds + ignorance also promote...
fights over ineffective
parenting in and between one or more family homes. This often causes
disputes over making and following parenting agreements (among other
things), and hinders consistently filling kids' normal
family-adjustment needs; and...
expensive wounded, unaware counselors and financial and legal professionals to help
resolve the family's surface problems, Their advice rarely includes the suggestions below, so family problems stay unresolved, and cynicism,
weariness grow; and unaware parents risk...
decisions about forming or joining a stepfamily, and
becoming overwhelmed with concurrent role and relationship problems;
family ignorance contributes to...
adult and child "mental health"
problems, poor school performance, socializing problems, drug abuse,
suicide, and parental neglect and/or abandonment.
stressors combine to lower a
nurturance level, so adults and kids often don't get their
primary needs met well enough, often enough.
This helps the [wounds +
unawareness] cycle pass down to the next generation.
Pause, breathe, and reflect. What are you thinking and feeling? Does this set of proposed primary
problems seem realistic? Credible? Can you think of other factors that cause
struggles with the surface parenting problems named above?
if you are wounded and unaware, a protective
false self is likely to discount, ignore,
and/or dispute these core problems, and deny or justify doing so.
What can divorcing-family and stepfamily adults do about these root
avoid or reduce the core causes of all major parenting conflicts
related to divorce, family adults (including grandparents) can help each other work patiently at
Study and discuss this
overview of the lethal [wounds
+ unawareness] cycle. Reluctance to do this probably indicates
psychological wounds, which will sabotage all other
to _ assess each family adult for psychological wounds and to
_ patiently help each other reduce any that they find.
Without this step, the following options won't work.
Assess: all family adults and key
supporters (including professionals) learn what they need to
learn by taking and discussing these
this to dispel the common myth "I (or We) already know how to
parent and be a healthy family." Parental desertion, separation, and divorce are clear indictors of major family-system
Learn: all family adults
study and discuss
Lessons 1 thru 6 (or 7, if you're a stepfamily) in order, over several months.
Put special emphasis on Lesson 2 (effective communication),
Lesson 3 (effective grieving), and Lesson 6 (effective
Learn how to
most relationship problems, including these three widespread
family stressors. They are
surely affecting all your adults
and children. Then model and teach these learnings to your kids and
If you hire
therapists, counselors, mediators, attorneys, and/or social workers
to help resolve major child-related disputes, ask each
of them to join you in working on these options. If they
balk, they're probably
wounded and unaware. Look
If you're considering (or are
already) using the legal system to force someone to
comply, read this
and STOP, unless someone's current safety is
clearly at risk.
Legal battles between ex mates and other relatives
always make things worse!
If you're considering
forming a stepfamily or are already part of one,
all family adults study and discuss Lesson 7, heed
these danger signs, and be alert for these
problems. Put your integrity first, your
marriage second, and all else third, except in
If you want to permanently end or avoid major family
conflicts over child custody, visitations, financial
support, holidays, vacations, loyalties, and other
things, ask all your family adults (not just
parents) and supporters to (a)
read and discuss
this article, and then (b) commit to working at these
concurrent options. If they won't, see
you finish here.
What are you thinking and feeling now? Is your true Self
This Lesson-6 article proposes that all common
parenting disputes between
divorcing mates are symptoms of
(a) parents' psychological wounds from traumatic
childhoods, and (b) ignorance of the vital topics
in this free online
course. This premise is based on
professional research with over 500 average American
divorcing families and stepfamilies.
The article proposes eight specific remedies that
divorcing-family and stepfamily adults can work at to
(a) greatly improve the nurturance level of their family, and to
(b) protect their descendents from inheriting the lethal
effects of the [wounds + unawareness]