Dr. Amy Stark
Child Psychologist, Author & Speaker
Teaching Families How to Live Divorced
and Self-Esteem for Girls and Boys
Food For Thought
The Magic Age
Children and teens in divorced families often complain about their other parent. Since children often know their parents with alarming accuracy, they might even voice some of the same complaints that led to the separation between you and their other parent. This is the reason that you might not be the best one to handle these complaints. You are not necessarily going to be able to be objective. After all, if you could handle these issues you might still be in a relationship with the other parent.
So what do you do? If the child or teenager has had some discussions with the other parent in the past, you might want to encourage them to discuss their problems with their other parent. I think its always a good idea to talk to the person you are having the problem with whenever possible. If the issues are bigger than that, you might want to talk to the other parent and see if you can broker some kind of peaceful solution.
There are times when the problems are more complex. Often times, this is when parents will ask me what the magic age is that kids can say they no longer wish to have a relationship with their other parent. Having no relationship is usually not the best solution. Generally speaking, kids do not understand the long range implications of their decisions. Having unresolved issues with one parent or another may lead to these same issues rearing their ugly head when they reach adulthood. Your child or teen may not understand that when they have no contact with either their father or their mother it is going to impact their future relationships. Somtimes they are merely siding with one parent over the other. Sometimes they are objecting to rules the other parent has set. Other times the other parent has a new relationship that has changed the dynamics with this child. Their reasoning ailities do not comprehend that these issues they object to in their other parent will be playing out in all their future significant relationships.
There are exceptions to this rule. Sometimes the court sets protective limits on a child’s relationship with the other parent. Its important to understand that even under those circumstances, a child’s issues with their other parent continue to come up in future relationships without an opportunity to work these issues through in therapy.
Then what’s the best solution?. There are no hard and fast rules. But, Sp, what do you do? If you feel the issues are legitimate and can see they are adversly impacting your kid, it is usually wisest to contact the other parent or get some assistance from the court to get an order and see if your child can work these issues out either with the other parent, or if the parent is unwilling, in individual sessions with a forensically trained therapist. Regardless of the outcome, it will give your child a chance to have their voice heard and maybe even help them to better understand their other parent.
Dr. Stark's Web site is not intended to take the place of a court-ordered advice or the advice of another professional. Although you may use the input found here to your best advantage, we recommend that you do so in conjunction with the work that you are doing with your individual therapist. Remember: this Web site is not therapy; it's knowledge and support.
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Santa Ana, CA 92705