This coronavirus is testing the limits of parents’ patience.
Kid’s are looking for chinks in the armor. Then, if the parents are separated, the children’s divide and conquer long-time strategies can take on epic proportions.
With the long weekend upon us and hopefully better weather, kids will be itching to get outside and connect with either family or friends. Divide and conquer means more half-baked stories, some of which may be built on a kernel of truth and other’s well… not so much. Kids will naturally push back to get what they want. However, as the adults, we still must do what we consider best for them.
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Survival, particularly between separated parents requires two things:
Managing our emotions and communication.
When you receive the story that either tugs at your heart strings, suggests what other parents are doing or positions one parent as better than the other, it is time to hold onto our hats and check things out for ourselves.
While that can be tough between some separated parents, the trick is to suspend your feelings in the moment and just share information, what has been told to you by the child, so that you can clarify matters. Then, and again almost emotionally detached, seek to determine how to manage the weekend between you in a way that still provides for the child’s safety and well-being.
Appreciate that your child is only trying to get their way and is likely exhausted by social distancing. That makes them normal. So rather than seeing them as manipulative, see them as sad.
When addressing these matters and the weekend with your child, approaching from the view they are sad may help you empathise. With that you can engage them in looking for solutions that may suit the situation. At the very least, it gives you the opportunity to be emotionally supportive, even if continuing to set limits, boundaries and expectations.
Be careful about being nice at the expense of safe. In the end, we want decisions based on the well being of not only the child, but whoever the child may next have contact with and then who they may have contact with too.
Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW is a Canadian Social Worker in private practice. He is recognized from his 65 episodes of the hit show Newlywed/Nearly Dead, to over 650 columns as the parenting expert of a major metropolitan newspaper, to more than 350 media appearances, to his book, Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout Canada and the US and helps family peacemakers grow their practice.