Post-Divorce Parenting Mistakes and Strategies

Post-divorce parenting is fraught with danger — danger that you will inadvertently do damage on top of what the divorce has already done. To help you recognize mistakes you may be making and to avoid mistakes you’re prone to make, Dr. Phil lists some of the biggest and most frequent mistakes those in your situation typically make:

  • Sabotaging your child’s relationship with the other parent.
  • Using your child as a pawn to “get back at” or hurt your ex.
  • Using your child to gain information or to manipulate and influence your ex.
  • Transferring hurt feelings and frustrations toward your ex onto your child. (You may be particularly prone to this if your child bears physical or behavioral resemblances to your ex.)
  • Forcing your child to choose a side when there’s a conflict in scheduling or another planning challenge.
  • Turning family events attended by both divorced parents into pressure cookers. Events that call for sensitivity include birthdays, holidays, school programs, extracurricular activities and performances.
  • Depending too much on your children for companionship and support because you’re hurt and lonely and have adopted a siege mentality: “It’s us against the world.” This isn’t a healthy position for either you or your child to adopt.
  • Treating your child like an adult because you’re lonely or just want help. It is inappropriate to give your child an adult job.
  • Becoming so emotionally needy that your child develops feelings of guilt if he or she spends time or even wants to spend time with your ex, friends, grandparents or others.
  • Converting guilt over the divorce into overindulgence when it comes to satisfying your child’s material desires.

Besides making a commitment to avoid these mistakes, you should affirmatively commit to a family and parenting strategy that will help your child flourish in a divorced home. Key components of such a strategy include:

  • Sit down with your ex and make an affirmative plan that sets aside any differences you may have and focuses instead on meeting the needs of your children.
  • Agree with your ex that you absolutely won’t disparage each other to your children. Further, forbid your children to speak disrespectfully about the other parent, even though it may be music to your ears.
  • Negotiate and agree on how you can best handle such things as handing off the children for visitation, holidays, or events. In the interest of your children’s peace and security, it’s up to you to act maturely and without selfishness.
  • Agree on boundaries and behavioral guidelines for raising your children so that there’s consistency in their lives, regardless of which parent they’re with at any given time.
  • With regard to extended family members, negotiate and agree on the role they’ll play and the access they’ll be granted while your child is in each other’s charge. The extended family plays a very important role in the lives of children.
  • Communicate actively with your ex about all aspects of your child’s development. Both parents should know about any and all positive or negative events in the child’s developmental journey.
  • Recognize that children are prone to testing a situation and manipulating boundaries and guidelines, especially if there’s a chance to get something they may not ordinarily be able to obtain. It’s important that you and your ex compare notes before jumping to conclusions or condemning one another about what may have happened.
  • Although it may be emotionally painful, make sure that you and your ex keep each other informed about changes in your life circumstances so that the child is never, ever the primary source of information.
  • Commit to conducting yourself with emotional integrity. If you and your ex have agreed to a plan, stick to it. Say what you mean; mean what you say.

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United Nations Recognize Parental Alienation As Violence And Abuse Against Children

Parental Alienation


Professionals in different disciplines identified and defined Parental Alienation as the pervasive practice of one parent against the other parent to destroy the parent-child relationship with the targeted parent. This is usually done with the intent to gain financial benefits.

Since 1990, the year that The Convention on the Rights of the Child entered into force, a more pernicious form of Parental Alienation has permeated parent-child relationship. Parental Alienation is now perpetrated not only by alienating parents, but judicial systems and government agencies too, without any evidence or proof that the alienated mother or father is harmful to the child.

In order to comply with the yearly resolutions suggested by (NGO’s) to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Member States Parties initiated, developed and sustain a worldwide persecution of parents. As a consequence children are taken away from their…

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Can we ever reconcile?

Parental Alienation

Yes.  But there’s a big “but.”  I’ve never seen success with the typical way we all try to build bridges or keep the door open.  Some of the ways that do notbring them back are to keep:

  1. Giving them what they want in hopes they’ll know we love them and the door is always open so that, by some miracle, one day they’ll wake up transformed into decent, loving, caring adults with great character.
  2. Trying to educate, explain and teach what’s right.  They don’t have the same standards of right and wrong that we do.  And they don’t want to learn ours.
  3. Arguing about who did what.  Argue that they’re misinterpreting, that their feelings are way out of proportion, or debate or reason with their emotions.
  4. Bribing them by giving them gifts and money.  Appease them by accepting blame and guilt so they can beat us even more.
  5. Begging…

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They won’t forgive.

Parental Alienation

They might pretend for a while in order to get what they want, but as soon as they have it, they start tormenting us again.

Bullies, abusers and predators misinterpret our kind, caring, moral gestures as weakness.  They think we’re easy prey and they go after us even more.  They want to hurt us; they’re happy when they see us suffer.

Ignorance is not the problem.  Education is not the solution.  They think their lives wouldn’t be messed up if we hadn’t harmed them way back when.  They think their criticism, anger and rage are justified now because we did or do something they don’t like.

Trying to change them is like trying to change the weather.  Good luck with that.  Better strategy: when it’s winter, take the necessary precautions.

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“Reconcile With Your Children, Reconcile With Yourself If You Cannot.”

Parental Alienation

We help alienated or excluded parents to see opportunities between them and their children they wouldn’t otherwise see, then we work to facilitate a reconciliation, and remediation of their relationship. If reconciliation cannot happen, we work to help these parents reconcile with themselves . ~ Stan Korosi

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Parental Gatekeeping and Parental Alienation

Parental Gatekeeping
For parents who are co-parenting after a divorce, parental gatekeeping can become a very serious problem when trying to co-parent and communicate effectively. Parental gatekeeping is a term used to describe a parent’s preferences and attempts to restrict and exclude the other parent from being involved in the child’s development. Gatekeeping attitudes and behaviors can range from very positive, which are facilitative, to very negative, which are inhibitory, or to the most extreme known as Parental Alienation.

Although restrictive gatekeeping usually occurs in divorced families, about 20% of parents in “intact” families are restrictive gatekeepers, 42% of parents showed an intermediate level of gatekeeping and about 37% were very cooperative and inclusive (Allen & Hawkins, supra n. 12 on page 200).  This shows that gatekeeping is much more common than most assume. For this reason mental health professionals as well as legal professionals must be educated and aware of parental gatekeeping and it’s negative effects on family cohesiveness.

Parental Alienation
Parental gatekeeping can become very extreme which is known as Parental Alienation (PA). Parental Alienation occurs when a parent alienates one or all children from the other parent. The rejected parent naturally reacts very negatively when the child resists spending time or communicating with them. Once the children begin rejecting the alienated parent, conflict ensues which is typically followed by legal action.

The child’s view of the other parent can negatively change which will only further conflicts and litigation between co-parents. The treatment for parental alienation involves intense therapy for children to be reintroduced to the adult from which the child was alienated from known as reunification therapy. Once the child has been re-introduced, the parent who was doing the alienating must be treated as well with intense therapy to halt the behaviors as well as attitudes to allow participation from the other parent.

Attitudes versus Behaviors in Restrictive Gatekeeping
It is crucial to have the ability to distinguish between gatekeeping attitudes and behaviors. The theory that many researchers have developed states that a parent’s gatekeeping attitudes will lead to what is called “gate closing behaviors” which closes off a parent completely from the child . In the context of divorce and litigating parents, negative attitudes about the other parent and his or her parenting skills or knowledge is expected and usual. A common mistake by evaluators is to view a parent as non-supportive, even to a point of alienating the child, when the parent merely holds a critical attitude.

The important issues that avoid parental alienation are if the parent can avoid impeding access to the child, cooperate with the parenting plan, and share information.

Common gate closing behaviors can include showing hostility at exchanges, not facilitating phone calls, derogating the other parent in front of the child, and being rigid or inflexible when there is a need to change or reschedule events in the parenting plan or time schedule.

Court & Legal Implications of Restrictive Gatekeeping
In court restrictive gatekeeping can be seen as Parental Alienation which has serious legal ramifications. Theses destructive behaviors can cause a great deal of damage to the children involved as well as a loss of parental rights. In extreme cases, children can be removed from the restrictive parent’s home and moved to the other parent’s home or guardian for safety. In extreme cases, a judge may rule that the parent is only allowed to interact with the child through supervised visitation programs. Although these are all extreme cases, the outcome of restrictive gatekeeping shows the negative outcome most, through children and how they begin to view the outside parent. The most important factor that contributes to healthy development in a child being raised in a divorced home, is the support of both parents without constant conflict and litigation.

Restrictive Gatekeeping Behaviors

  • Limiting communication, despite court order, between children and parent
  • Limiting time sharing with other parent
  • Withholding important information regarding the child
  • Interrupting time sharing with other parent
  • Speaking negatively about a parent with or in front of a child
  • Making decisions without the other parent’s input
  • Arguing or negative communication in front of children with other parent
  • Refusing to communicate with other parent
  • Being strict and non-flexible for necessary time changes to time sharing

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Maternal Gatekeeping

My husband and I read with great interest about a Court’s decision in Kelly Rutherford’s ongoing battle with her ex-husband.

Here are some excerpts from a 52 page court decision:  “Kelly withheld news of Helena’s birth from Daniel and denied Daniel the right to be present at the hospital.”

“Kelly’s failure to put Daniel on Helena’s birth certificate is reflective of her general reluctance to facilitate the children’s relationship with their father.”

A custody evaluator testified:  “Ms. Rutherford has engaged in conduct intended to interfere with Mr. Giersch’s relationship with the children.”

Both court-appointed evaluators found Rutherford guilty of “maternal gatekeeping.”

So, in conclusion, the Court determined:  “Afer careful review of all of the evidence and testimony in this case, the Court finds that there is clear and convincing evidence that Daniel has facilitated the children’s relations with Kelly, particularly in the most recent years, and that Kelly has not facilitated the children’s relationship with Daniel.”

It’s refreshing to see a Court understand what is happening in the lives of so many children who are living with divorced parents, and to put the children’s best interests first ….. when a parent won’t.