As we know from previous discussions about divorce, children are innocent victims and often find themselves on a road filled with emotional land mines. When a child loses his in-tact family good, bad, or ugly as the family may be, he experiences abandonment. However the family system has been set up, the system is no more. Parents may be blind to how the system is set up, but most children unconsciously know exactly how things work. There may be an easy parent, a tough parent, a sibling/parent who distracts, a sibling/parent who protects, a sibling/parent who is humorous, a sibling/parent who comforts for starters and this system will be broken up with divorce in a way that one home may not have all of these options any more for the child.
Loss of Protection/Comfort
Divorce rearranges everything so a child may feel abandoned because the protector/comforter may not be with the child in both homes. When parents haven't done their divorce due diligence to be able to move on, they often continue to fight. When parents continue to fight, the child's needs often get ignored. A healthy parent will look at the family dynamics and set things up as best as possible in the new home. You need to make some adjustments. You won't be just like the other parent but if you are the workaholic parent, for example, you can become more balanced. If you are the stricter parent you can find ways to comfort and nurture. Both parents need to provide consistency and balance with all the elements of good parenting.
Loss of Balance
Think about life before the divorce. If one parent was content to stay home with life as usual and one parent provided the adventures, the child may now have one house too filled with adventures and one house too filled with status quo. One parent may have provided humor and the other seriousness. Neither household is right or wrong, just different. Healthy parents will work to get a balance of curiosity, adventures, status quo, humor and seriousness in each home.
Loss of Consistency for the Child's World
When one parent cares about the child having outside interests (school plus two extracurricular activities is a good balance) and one doesn't, the child's activities outside of school may be sabotaged. Taking your child shopping (because that is what you like) during a practice or game is sabotaging to a child's world whether or not he/she can tell you. It is not an option to "no show" for practices, forget equipment, and plan things the parent wants to do during a scheduled game. I see this behavior way too often. Healthy parents support their children with their commitments. A child's commitments need to be honored consistently in both homes.
Abandonment with a capital A
One of the most egregious ways a parent abandons his/her child is when he tells the child to forget he is the father or she is the mother and/or forget all the promises and agreements I made to you when I was your Mom/Dad. How does something like this happen and why does it happen so often? Sometimes people can't be alone and thus the need to be with someone is greater than the standard for that someone. If you are a divorced parent with children, you are a package period. Insecurity drives a parent to settle and throw the children under the bus and insecurity drives the new person to want the children thrown under the bus. If the spouse can't be alone and the new parent can't accept the package, Houston we have a problem!
When we have a parent with children marrying someone without children, the children have to be honored by the new parent. Odds are you knew children were part of the package so move on if you are not ready to be a Mom/Dad to these children and/or support your partner in being the best parent he/she can. And as a parent, you need to be strong enough to stand up for your children "they come with me so".
When two people meet and they both have children, all of the children have to be top priority. If you allow your wife/husband to bully you, the kids will learn that and the pecking order will be established in the same way with the kids. There are countless stories of parents abandoning their children in a blended family because of insecurity and no backbone. Blending families is not always easy but there are lots of resources and information to help you. It is your job to get the information on how to blend so all children and parents are a priority. The children have already been traumatized by divorce and they don't need to be traumatized by joining a new family that isn't safe. Healthy parents get help to put together a healthy blended family.
When you have made financial and emotional agreements of support to your children, these need to be announced to the new partner before you sign on the dotted line. If you promised your children support and education until 21 or the end of college and you marry someone who believes children should be on their own at 18 with no further support or education, it is your job to keep your commitment to your children. As the new spouse it is your job to accept and support this commitment. Finances may change and have to be creatively worked out but philosophical commitments e.g. 21 vs 18 should be honored.
Healthy parents look at all important commitments that have been made to the children and take a stand for their word.
"Anyone can have a child and call themselves 'a parent.' A real parent is someone who puts that child above their own selfish needs and wants." Author Unknown
Dr. Anne Brown PhD, RN of Sausalito, California, is a psychotherapist, speaker, coach, and the author of Backbone Power: The Science of Saying No . Anne's approach is especially applicable to people affected by divorce. Backbone Power is a no nonsense self help guide to making decisions while having backbone and integrity in all your choices, short term and long term. In addition to helping the divorce community, Anne has over twenty years experience as the trusted advocate and advisor to influential corporate leaders, trial attorneys, athletes, leaders, physicians and others seeking actionable guidance. Brown is a graduate of the University of Virginia, BS in Nursing; Boston University, MS in Psychiatric-Mental Health in Nursing; and International University, PhD in Addiction Studies. In 1997 Brown also reached a personal goal of obtaining her Black Belt in Soo Bahk Do. You can contact Dr. Anne Brown through her website: www.BackbonePower.com .