On a recent Irish radio programme, I heard two adult brothers talk about their childhood in the early 1990s, when their parents separated. As a result of their parents' separation, they lost contact with their mother. They recalled how much their lives changed when they were made to live with their dad. Their dad convinced them that their mother didn’t love them, that she was no good and that they had to get on with life without her.
Eighteen years later, they found diaries in the attic that one of them had kept. The diaries helped them to unravel the truth. They were able to recall how much they loved their mum and how much she loved them. They could see more clearly what their father had done out of selfishness and hate, out of power and control.
For eighteen years, they lost their mother because their parents separated and they could not find a way to share the parenting of their children.
So many parents come into our service in One Family who are parenting young children. The hurt caused in the relationship breaking down is so great that moving on to a shared parenting relationship is very difficult.
I know so many parents prevent children from having a relationship with the other parent for fear they will hurt the child. The fear is often their own fear. Don’t alienate your child from their other parent unless you are certain that you are protecting them for the right reasons. Find ways now to support your children to have both parents in their lives, to save them a heart-breaking journey later in life.
Often, parents will say that their child doesn’t want to see their other parent when the child has no history of a relationship with the parent. But how does a child make this decision, if they have nothing in their own experience to base that decision upon? This is when we have to explore how we are influencing what choices our children make.
Every day, our children make choices influenced by their parents. We are their role models and it is our job to influence them. Often, we may be influencing them without realising it. By never talking about the other, parent what picture do we paint? By letting the child know we have strong feelings against the other parent, how are we influencing them? By tearing up every time they ask a question about the other parent, how are we influencing them?
Remember that no matter how much you love them and provide for them, children may still feel hurt for what you did not allow them to experience. It is better to allow them make the choice (to have a relationship with their other parent) than to make it for them. They may decide to have a distant relationship from a parent, or they may decide to have a very close relationship with them. This may be a very great challenge for you.
Talking with your child is key to supporting them to make their own choices. Your relationship with your former partner was your relationship; try to find a way to allow your child to have their own relationship with their other parent. This is key to allowing them to have a childhood that will not require them to unravel the past and understand it all. Help them understand life, now.
For support and information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email support@onefamily.ie.
You can listen to the story mentioned above on the Today FM podcast, here
Parent Mentor