In this week’s “Parenting” segment on the Moncrieff show, a listener asked for advice on how to maintain a bond with their children after an acrimonious separation.
Joanna Fortune, a psychotherapist specializing in child and adult psychotherapy, joined Moncrieff to answer this question and those of other listeners.
“I separated from my partner a few years ago and we have three children together.
“Unfortunately, the situation is very acrimonious and I feel like I am excluded from parenting my children.
“Even more worrying, I am losing contact with my children, especially the older ones.
“Does Joanna have any advice for maintaining the relationship with the children when the parents are separated and it’s difficult?”
“I can sit here and plead for parents to focus on the one thing you have in common – which is your children’s best interests.
“I can say all of that, of course, but in reality, this type of scenario where personal hurt, personal anger and ultimately acrimony, is what dominates with every parent, so it plays out in every relationship. relational – including the parent-child relationship.
“Because kids look to their parents for emotional queues all the time… So it’s very difficult for everyone involved.
“But you’d also be kind of superhuman if you said, ‘I manage to contain all this rage and frustration and the kids don’t see it!
“You’re either superhuman or you’re laughing at yourself because they’re actually picking things up. Those who are not verbal [queues], the sighs, the eye contact, the facial reactions that we all have, these microaggressions that we have. Children are very aware of this.
“When you say you’re being barred from parenting your children, I’m going to assume you’ve had legal advice, and if not, pursue that.
“What are your guardianship rights around the children? Make sure the school has your contact details and communicate everything twice so that you are sure to know.
“But I think it may be referring to a broader sense than that, which is that it’s also the day-to-day parenting of children.
“I think focus on the connection and I just want to break it down a bit because if you can really invest in knowing what the kids are doing when they’re not with you… Their general interests, what interests them – interest Remember this; their hobbies, that they go swimming on a Tuesday and never mind on a Wednesday.
“And when you see them on Thursday, you can, ‘How was swimming on Tuesday?’ So they know that you are actively informed about what they are doing.
“And again, I’m making an assumption, there’s some sort of routine that you’re aware of around that.
“Be curious about ‘Is there a birthday party coming up?’ Really focus not on what you’re missing out on because of the acrimonious separation, but on the connection you can and do have with the kids about the details of their lives.
“The Little Details – ‘What do you like to play with?’ The little things matter to children and don’t underestimate them.
“Make sure you play with them and I don’t mean plan expensive and complex outings for the time they are with you. Just being home with you, hanging out can mean a lot to kids.
“Simple fun activities and be fully present with them.”
“Write cards because again I don’t know how often you see them but you can post them to the kids and again it’s a way for them to know you’re thinking of them and to stay connected – by sending messages that don’t require a reply. .
“So even if it’s sending a text or a video message or a voice note or a physical card, it’s not something that depends on their response, but they’re getting that message from you.
“If mediation hasn’t been done around this, I would definitely ask [but] mediation only works when both parties are willing to be there and work towards a common goal.
“But be the parent they might not hear from; be the version of you that defies what they might hear because kids are smart and through repeated experience of you coming and being engaged and interested, that’s the version of you they internalize.
“It’s the one they trust and it’s the connection you invest in.”
Main image: Parent and child. Photo by: Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/dpa