Custody

 

January
When Parents Become Estranged From Their Children


The bond children have with their parents is absolutely essential to their development, their self concept and their self esteem. It provides children with the framework for how their view themselves and the world around them. More importantly, it sets the blueprint for how they form relationships with others. The importance of this bond cannot be over stated or under estimated.

However, sometimes events or situations occur and result in this important bond either not being formed or disrupted or broken. Some of these circumstances include but are limited to:

  • A child may not have established a relationship with their biological or birth parent because of adoption or separation from that parent at birth because of geographic distancing and/or because the relationship between the child's parents broke down. Some times a parent chooses to not establish a relationship with the child because he/she feels at the time, it is not in the child's best interest to do so. Often times, a father is not even aware of his child's existence and as a consequence, he never had an opportunity to form a relationship with the child.
  • A parent's physical and mental illness or events that alter a parents' ability to function and relate to his/her child at times might have a significant impact on a relationship with his/her children. Some illnesses or medical/psychiatric conditions such as stroke, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, drug and alcohol addictions or brain injuries, may result in impairments in the affected parent so great that it might be difficult for a child to continue his/her relationship as it once was.
  • A divorce and its fallout often leads to disruption in children's lives. During this time, children might become hostile toward one or both parents. Most often this disruption is brief and resolves in itself within the first year post separation. However, there are times when it is difficult to sustain a relationship that once particularly when a custodial parent relocates.
  • The most serious consequence of divorce is when one parent deliberately attempts to distance their child or children from the other parent. It is even more painful and devastating to the children and the affected parent when the children engage in the alienating process. Without intervention, preferably swiftly, the chances of re-establishing the important parent-child bond and repairing the relationship becomes increasingly difficult as time goes on.

What Can An Estranged Parent Do?

Needless to say, re-establishing a relationship and/or repairing a damaged or disrupted relationship requires the participation of parent and child. There are no guarantees that your efforts will be successful, but what is certain is that if no effort is made, the chance of realizing any improvement is remote.

Here are some things parents should and should not do in their efforts to re-unite with their children....

  • DO keep the lines of communication open through phone calls, emails, cards, postcards & letters. Always let your child know that you are thinking about them by remembering birthdays and other special events. Maintain an interest in what they are doing. Email is an excellent way of communicating and re-establishing relationships.
  • If calls are not accepted, DO continue to communicate in the others ways listed
  • If you have reason to believe that your letters, cards or even emails are being intercepted and not reaching your child, DO consider sending a letter by special delivery and spending an extra dollar to receive a signed receipt by mail. You will then know that your letter did arrive and who signed for it.
  • DO NOT deluge your child with calls. It could be viewed as harassment. Instead, respect your child's need for distance but balance it with appropriate concern and attention.

Remember above all, that if your messages are being received, they will make a difference to your child.

© 2008, Reena Sommer

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However often marriage is dissolved, it remains indissoluble. Real divorce, the divorce of heart and nerve and fiber, does not exist, since there is no divorce from memory. - Virgilia Peterson

Dr. Reena Sommer is an internationally recognized relationship and divorce consultant. She became widely known as a strong critic of domestic violence policies that failed to recognized the reciprocal nature of partner abuse.

Dr. Sommer has been an invited speaker to academic, government and lay audiences in Canada and the U.S.. In 1998, Dr. Sommer testified before the Joint Senate-House of Commons Committee on Custody and Access on the issue of domestic violence. More recently in April 2002, she was invited by the Canadian federal government to participate on a panel of experts on the issue of custody and access.

She has written extensively on relationship and family issues such as domestic violence, addictions, divorce and custody. Her interest in high conflict relationships led her toward developing expertise as a divorce consultant in the assessment and treatment of parental alienation syndrome under Dr. Richard Gardner. As well, Dr. Sommer recently completed her e-Book, The Anatomy of an Affair. A free condensed pdf version of the e-Book can be downloaded.

Dr. Sommer has produced three divorce related informational products which are currently available online in the form of downloadable audiofiles: Divorce 101: Things You are Unlikely to Hear from an Attorney; Developing an Effective Parenting Plan, and Preparing for a Custody Evaluation.

You are also welcome to sign up for a free mini-course, Arming Yourself for Your Custody Battle! See www.reenasommerassociates.mb.ca or for more information, please email us at E-Mail or 204. 487.7247 or fax: 204.487.3051  



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