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.
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.