Divorce is probably one of the most painful trials we will ever experience. In some situations it is more painful than a death because with a death, there is an end. After a divorce, the two ex-partners still have to work together for the sake of the children. Not only is it extremely painful for the partners, but it may be even more so for the children. Their world has been turned upside down and they are asked to adjust to so many changes. For these reasons, we need a structure to lessen the pain for the child going through a divorce.
The Parenting-Partner Covenant is one tool designed to protect the child from being in the middle or being used as a pawn.
I will not make our children feel guilty about enjoying themselves with their other parent.
A friend of mine shared how, when he was a child, his parents had a nasty divorce. He found himself caught in the middle. If he shared that he had a fun time with the one parent, the other parent would be hurt or angry. He learned quickly to stuff his feelings. Later on in his life, this choice would impact his other relationships and his marriage. Even after he got married, it was difficult for him to share his feelings - even the happy ones. His spouse had a difficult time knowing how to please him or even knowing who he was.
I will cooperate with my parenting-partner in the continued parenting of our children by maintaining the same discipline and structure.
Some of us want to be a friend instead of a parent. By being the "Disneyland parent," we force our ex-partner to be "the bad guy." Someone has to enforce the rules. Others of us are more lenient with our children because we feel guilty putting them through this divorce. Structure makes the child feel more secure We need to ask ourselves, "Do I want to keep my child from developing or do I want to be a parent? Who is the parent here?"
I will not criticize my parenting-partner in front of the children.
No child wants to hear bad things about their parents whom they love. The bad mouthing of the other parent can create anger within the child. When the parent is criticized, there is a danger that the child will form a distorted belief that can impact the rest of his or her life. The child could form a belief, "you cannot trust anyone," which may keep him or her from trusting and being open with a partner. They will tend to hold back and not be vulnerable with that partner.
Next month we will continue exploring the Parenting-Partner Covenant.
Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700