16 December, 2008

Grow Up Divorced Parents, Share your Kids, it's Christmas

Don't be the "greedy kid" with your kids anytime and especially at Christmas.  Let's all try harder to take the beautiful Christmas sentiment of caring and sharing to a higher level and really live it out loud during all of the other remaining days of the year as well.

(Much needed additional note here as well...these sentiments DO NOT apply when one of the parents has been and/or is abusive, that is an ENTIRELY different scenario, with much needed ENTIRELY different rules, in order to protect the abused parties of the offender.)

Don't use holidays for tug of war

Monday, Dec. 15, 2008

Nearly 17 years ago this month, I was in the wedding of a relative. The bride and groom had bright smiles of happiness. The couple, then in their early 20s, danced to Luther Vandross' love song "Here and Now," the lyrics of which state "You're all I need."

Of all the weddings I have attended, and there have been plenty, I felt this marriage would last. This loving couple and their children shared a good-natured sense of humor which made their home, as Dr. Phil would say, "a soft place to land." This was especially true when our families spent Christmas together.

Unfortunately, the laughter and Christmas visits are over. The couple is now on the path toward divorce. To make matters worse, both sides are resorting to "parental alienation" --- Parental alienation is a fancy term for bad-mouthing the other spouse. 

My relatives are practically a case study on how NOT to handle a divorce.

"A lot of parents rationalize what they do by saying they're protecting their child from the other parent," Darnall explained during an interview.

In fact, the holidays often escalate the tension between spouses, he says.

"Holidays are a sensitive issue because most parents want a fair share of the time with the child," he says. "We place a high value at Christmas with being together. If one parent is blocking access to the child, then the other parent feels lonely and bitter."

Darnall provides warning signs of child manipulation:

Telling the child details about the marital relationship or reasons for the divorce.

One parent blaming the other parent for financial problems, breaking up the family or changes in lifestyle.

Asking the child to choose one parent over the other.

Reacting with hurt or sadness to a child having a good time with the other parent.

Listening in on the child's phone conversations with the other parent.

Refusing to be flexible with the visitation schedule in order to respond to the child's needs, or scheduling the child in so many activities that the other parent is never given the time to visit.

Encouraging any natural anger the child has toward the other parent.

Is a "friendly" divorce ever possible?

"There are people with children who can work very well together," he says. "They recognize the value for the children to have a loving relationship with the other parent. It's my belief that the majority of parents have a reasonably healthy relationship with their ex-spouses."

Parents, says Darnall, who continue denigrating their former spouses are risking their children's well-being. Children are affected academically and socially.

"It depends on the child's personality or character," he says. "Some are extremely sensitive, and others can brush things off. We do see gender differences. Males tend to act out and females become passive-aggressive.

The good news, Darnall says, is a parent will often stop the behavior once they see it in themselves.

"A lot of these problems are avoidable," Darnall says.


  1. I wonder if we are related. My mother was a Lubbers. Nonetheless I am a victim of Parental Alienation. I have much to say about it and it cannot be stopped just for the holidays. The court must recognize it as should the protective agencies.

  2. IMO, at some point we are all victims of "Parental Alienation" ~ just like at some point we are all lied to, cheated, ignored, mocked, unappreciated and nearly always, not loved as much nor how we truly should be...

    In which case, I guess we need a heck of a lot more Syndromes for all of those things too.

    Sounds like we all should expect much higher taxes in 2009, considering all that the Court and Protective Agencies need to get up to speed on.

  3. My sons' father was amiable for two years after our split. When he realized that I was not going to reconcile, he has refused any communication with me at all. It is indicative of his all-or-nothing mentality which I finally could not longer endure (after 27 years). My youngest son is extremely fearful that if he is friendly to the new person in my life, his dad will react toward him as he has toward me and cut him off emotionally, socially, perhaps even financially. He is resentful of me for creating this 'drama.' He acknowledges that my being lonely and sad should not be a prerequisite to communication with his dad but is in a terribly awkward position.

    I gave almost 30 years of my life to trying to reach his father, and when I recognized that he was not able to be a husband to me, I gave myself to my sons' successful development. My two oldest sons are more removed and, consequently, more accepting of my decisions but my youngest is so harsh with me that I am constantly torn and hurt by his behavior.

    Do you have any advice for how i can heal this sad wound? My son is 20 and I know he has much maturing. How do I cope in the meantime?

  4. To the Marine Mom:
    I too have had a father as you stated. I too have been blind to his personality, coupled with the neediness he and my mother instilled in me, so I kept doing the thngs for example, that I had been taught, and in some degree were reflected by them, that would get their attention, aka love. Of course in such a scenario, the limits of their availability either to me or to themselves, success never came.

    He is 83 now and the showdons have been coming in larger and larger degrees. My mother died a couple of years ago and she left half of her estate for each of her children, me and my adopted sister, 'adopted', mentioned only for additional information pertinent (i feel) to the matter before us. So my fahter came to try to control even this. He wanted to loan me money, albeit at 12% interest to help pay the bills. Luckily I got 12000 in credit. So I did not need him. I worked on the house for a year. Big Mistake. Sister sued me for what I was entitled to for the bills and the work. Of course I believe it was a mutual plan by her and him.

    As you say 'all or none'. Good example of control.

    Now he has apparently abandoned me from the 'family' as he presented those words in a recent court meeting we had to try to resolve the $20000 matter. He wants me to be a member "of our" family he said. I should give her half the money he said. What has happened here is he has shot himself in the foot trying to get back (he thinks) at me and getting licked by my sister. He has always been much softer toward women. His abuser was his mother. So I guess I have been cut out of his estate becuase I would not kiss up.

    I dont know what to suggest to you about your son. Will he go to counseling? How old is he? How much can you talk with him? Can he hear bits of truth?

    Its sad that one's own blood can be so cruel. And they can continue to walk in their cruelty all thier lives. One thing you can do is become healthy and let your light shine. The story of my two daughters is not unlike the one I just told too. But I must do what is in my heart. And I do it daily like here, hoping to make a difference for others and perhaps they will avoid the terrible traps in life.

  5. Thank you so much for your very open and caring response. It is heartbreaking to read of all the pain people intentionally attempt to inflict on each other. It makes no sense to create such pain when life offers us so many ways to be a support to each other. Life is difficult enough.

    I'm not sure he would consider counseling but I do believe he hears 'bits of truth' as you put it so aptly. His heart isn't hardened but there is a risk that he will absorb the wrong lessons from his dad's responses when he doesn't get his way.

    It is difficult to be whole and happy when there are so many ways people can derail your attempts to grow. Don't misunderstand . . . I have made many mistakes and have to answer for my own failures but I am eager to find ways to 'get it right' the next time.

    Your response does encourage me to keep reaching out to him. We didn't have a perfect family life but we tried to be kind to each other. Perhaps part of my growth is to accept that kindness may not always be the first response I will receive but I must be true to myself and continue to try to be open to the possibility of a loving relationship with my sons.

    Thank you for your gracious and encouraging response.