Fly with the Phoenix

Gracious Parenting is Possible While Living Apart
October 6, 2010, 1:28 am
Filed under: Family Transitions | Tags: , , ,

By Judy Graybill

The prevalence of divorce causes the separation of many parents from their children. That makes it more difficult for both parents to have the same quantity and quality of time with their children. This is regardless of the level of custody.

Relocation adds another caveat. The economy drives some families to move where there are more job opportunities. Some divorcees desire to be closer to other friends or family members, especially elder parents who may need extra care.  The added distance creates another challenge. Now, one parent has to either drive farther or fly, both of which add time and money spent.

Another obstacle that I hear too frequently is how one parent “sabotages” the relationship between the child and the other parent by saying bad things about the other parent. Parental Alienation Syndrome is also common. Children are very impressionable, and most tend to believe their parents. It creates confusion and hurt feelings in the victimized parent, especially if the child decides to not see or talk to the distant parent – either less frequently or not at all.

Below are a few suggestions for parents who feel alienated and want to stay connected to their kids:

1) Be consistent. Regardless of what is said or done by your child or ex-spouse, call frequently. Leave voice-mail messages or send text messages saying you are thinking of the child and wishing the best. Do this even if you don’t receive a response.

2) Keep your poise. As frustrating as it is, and as much as it hurts your feelings, try to stay calm and not seem irritated when talking to either your child or ex-spouse. Remember your goal to stay involved. If you are irritated and your relationship is already strained, expressing deep feelings will probably come across the wrong way and lead to an argument. With limited time over the phone, keep your conversation light-hearted.

3) Send gifts. Don’t miss birthdays or holidays. On occasion, if/when possible, send something “just because”.

4) Try to repair hurt feelings between you and your ex-spouse. This doesn’t mean you want to get back together or that you need to be “friends.” Be polite, courteous, and ask genuine questions about their well-being.

5) Consult a professional if these suggestions are too challenging for you to accomplish on your own. I highly recommend an expert trained in step families, especially if your ex-spouse is already involved in another relationship or you suspect Parental Alienation Syndrome. It helps to talk to somebody who understands what you’re going through.

Judy Graybill, The Stepfamily Coach
Sensible Steps, LLC
Solutions for Today’s Families
Creating peace of mind in stepfamilies by reducing stress and arguments. In addition to coaching family members to work together to resolve conflict and create new memories, I am a speaker and consultant on divorce and recoupled / blended families.


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