The finality of the death of a parent presents the need to adjust to an obvious, inescapable loss. Separation or divorce in a family represents a loss, but with the added complication of the contradiction created by the presence of the “Lost” parent.
If the physician is prepared to provide guidance, counseling, and information to the parent and children it is possible to help minimize these complications.
The child advocate can help the parents prepare a reasonable set of procedures for their relationship with the child including matters of custody and visitation. If there is a question of custody or visitation, it is usually best to have the child aware of the fact. The child can become a focus of competition between the parents; which leads to promises that cannot be kept. At this time, there can be a need for a parent to prove love for the child and to feel that he or she is loved by the child. This can be a natural reaction to the trauma of separation, but it can also be distorted into a value judgment where a parent sees his love as evidence that his is the “correct” position in the divorce. It is most important to make the parents aware of the harm that can be done when a child is placed between competing parents. The child advocate’s pan in protecting a child during a divorce o separation does not end with the divorce decree. Newly separated parents must be helped to adjust to a change in their relationships with the child.
The parent without custody of the child should, ideally, establish an effective relationship within the custody agreement. Visits can be important to both parents and the child. If the parent can develop a reliable, unthreatened attitude toward his new arrangement, he can help reduce the stress and apprehension of the child. It is important that the new relationship be honest, with the parent setting up responsibilities and adhering to them. If a child has been led to expect a visit front the parent and the parent fails to show up, the child is hurt and threatened. The other parent may become vindictive, and the situation becomes ripe for emotional tension. The child should never he made a messenger for mother-father communications.
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