When parents decide to end their marriage, many must work through deep layers of anger. The elements that caused the marriage to come apart also often caused deep wounds.
Healthy parents engage with a pastor, counselor, or close friend to help them move to a place of healing. At minimum, this frees them from getting stuck in the anger. At best, they regain the ability to engage with the other parent.
Unhealthy parents cling to their anger. Bad idea–for two big reasons.
Children love both parents. When one parent holds anger against the other, they put children in the middle. Over time this destroys their relationship with their children.
More–holding onto anger can be the greatest threat to parenting time now.
Anger’s impact on parenting time
The prime measure for decisions for regarding children in divorce is, “What is in the children’s best interest?”
Angry parents often lash out at, undermine, or speak disparagingly of the other parent. It’s hard to find ongoing exposure to these behaviors to be in the best interests of the children.
Taken to an extreme, parental anger can cause Parental Alienation. PA is a complex syndrome involving many factors, but which results in a child rejecting all contact or relationship with a parent. Experts usually attribute the child’s rejection to the actions of the other parent. (See below).
Courts have become increasingly aware of the damage one parent’s anger can inflict on children and on their ability to bond with the other parent. If a parent’s anger dominates their behavior, courts may be reluctant to open the door to potential PA. And, may limit parenting time.
Moving from angry parenting to healthy parenting
The hurt experienced in marriage is real. The anger is real. How do parents escape anger’s prison and find health? For themselves. For their children.
They focus on three goals.
- Focus on what you have to give your children. God gave your children to you because He designed you with strengths they need. Focus on sharing these with your children.
Share your skills, your experience, and your dreams for your children. As you do, you pass on the skills your children will need to succeed. You equip them to face challenges. You instill an excitement for the future. You parent.
- Take seriously your children’s need for their other parent. Your children likewise need the strengths of their other parent. Their skills. Their experiences. Their dreams. The combination of their strengths with yours offers your children their best future.
More, your children innately know that they share traits with both parents. If you disparage their other parent, your child takes it personally. If you instead speak well of the other parent, you affirm your child. You avoid making them feel guilty for loving the other parent. You create the security needed for your child to bond deeply with you.
- Concentrate on the kind of person you want your child to become. Then–be that person.
Children become what they live. As you offer a living example of honor, maturity, and kindness–even (especially) toward a person who has deeply wounded you, you set the bar. Your children become honoring, mature, and kind in their own right.
The greatest threat to parenting time is parenting behavior. Especially, behavior rooted in obsessive anger toward a former spouse.
The greatest security comes from focusing on the best interests of the children. Their best interest includes deep relationships with both parents. The prime indicator for whether children will survive their parents’ divorce is the ability of parents to work together. Trading anger for support offers your children their best chance. And, you the opportunity for more time.
At The Resolution Center, we help parents find ways to work together. If you would like a process to help you make the most of your parenting time, call 317-344-9740 or email info@TheResolutionCenterIndy.com. We look forward to serving you.
(Parental Alienation can look similar but is distinct from parental estrangement. In estrangement, the child rejects a parent because of that parent’s behavior–abuse, neglect, etc. The rejection can be explained by the parent’s treatment of the child. With PA, the rejection is far out of proportion to the parent’s behavior.)