The Best Gift for Kids in Divorce: Access to Both Parents
Several studies have shown that children point to “loss of a parent” as the most harmful consequence of their mother and father divorcing. Most often the “lost parent” is Dad.
Traditionally, mothers have tended to be gatekeepers, and when trust in a marriage is lost, fathers often see the gates close to them. Sometimes fathers cite economic reasons or lack of confidence to parent their children after separation. More often, on-going conflict between parents can make it nearly impossible for either of them to have adequate, healthy parenting time with their children.
Joan Kelly is one of the most respected child psychologists and researchers in the country. She has conducted decades-long studies that show that the more involved fathers are after separation and divorce, the better off their children are. What she found is further proof that a strong relationship with both parents is vital to a child’s well-being and development.
Children with strong ties to their fathers:
- Are more likely to form closer attachments, enjoy school, get better grades, and develop appropriate social behaviors
- Are less likely to engage in risky behaviors, or become depressed or violent
- Receive support that contributes to their ability to grow up to be healthy, productive members of society
- Experience close extended families and intergenerational support
Scheduling appropriate parenting time for both parents is often one of the toughest concerns to tackle in divorce. It’s not uncommon for mothers to object to fathers having significant parenting time, particularly when the children are toddlers or younger. However, according to Kelly’s studies it is important for children, including babies and toddlers, to begin forming attachments to their fathers whether their parents are married or not.
Living and working arrangements may not allow for equal parenting time, but time does not need to be equal to be appropriate. Appropriate attachments can be formed by experiencing consistent time with increasing duration as the children grow. Furthermore, Kelly’s studies have found that fostering stronger ties between fathers and children actually strengthens the mother-child bond as well.
Parents can better nurture their children by establishing a child-centered parenting plan that allows a continuing and meaningful relationship with both parents. What better gift is there than that? Your children will thank you for the rest of their lives.
My next post will take a look at two excellent resources for parents that help promote and nurture both parents’ relationships with their children.