Good Morning Grieving Stepparents and Parents,
Thank goodness it is Monday again. Back to a normal work week. Today I am going to talk about the coping aspects children exhibit when they go through a high conflict divorce or have to deal with a HCBP. I think it is important since there is a rise in remarriage and growth of the “blended family” that birth parents and stepparents need to see and understand the behaviors that their stepchildren or children are taking with the new adult.
I call them battle scars. They are wounds that show themselves when developing relationships with others. It is a matter of self-protection and getting their hieratical needs met. Many children are so desperate to feel accepted they will do or say anything to be accepted by the new adult in their parents live. This results in being called Mom or Dad quickly by the stepchild. Children also strive to be perfect to avoid conflict and be approved by their primary care givers. They can either form close bonds or shut out the other adult completely because of the emotional pain that forming the relationship causes.
Any parent would be proud of the child’s organizing, strategizing and overall planning attributes but for children coming from a high conflict divorce, these are coping mechanisms to manipulate adults in to getting what they want. While manipulating adults becomes easy, establishing a peer relationship is more difficult. Therefore they become liars. Covering their pain to put on the mask of self-worth. They are trained during the high conflict battle not to be able to communicate with others. They realize that having a relationship with their parent that is honest and is full of love is impossible and therefore they focus on the short term expedited attention by telling the parent exactly what they want to hear.
This conflict results in children avoiding conflicts. Becoming fast and quick liars to avoid confrontation. While this happens with the custodial parent, these children usually have little or no contact with the non-custodial parent and as more and more time is loss the relationship between both sets of parents begins to deteriorate. With the absence of the non-custodial parent it leaves a gap of the parental model that is built for all of children’s future relationships. 89.4% of children in all divorces reside with their mother. Yet psychologists agree that a relationship with the children’s father is important for the child’s development of instilling a sense of discipline and other social skills that mothers cannot teach.
Boys who live with their mother who experience a high conflict divorce will often develop an unhealthy psychological relationship. The son becomes part of the mothers grieving process and becomes a confidant, protector and help-mate. Because of this relationship, the son is more likely than the daughter to hear hostile, derogatory comments about his father, which results in him withdrawing from involvement in any relationship with anyone. Hence why he turns to a screen or hobby instead of focusing on building bonds with his parents because of the pressures to please his primary caregivers emotional needs.
Women who come parents who are divorced are 60% more likely to have a divorce of their own while only 35% of men. It thus becomes an endless cycle where the primary caregiver of the children, often the mother, perpetuates the situation over and over again particularly if their parents are divorced. Yet the damage to her children is far greater, knowing that her daughter will avoid conflict and have difficulty forming normalized friendships and her son will form an unhealthy relationship with her which makes the relationships he forms with potential spouses never quite like the one he had with his mom. Thus leading to either divorce or never being able to find true happiness with his soulmate for years to come.
O loving and creating God, bless families hurting with the pain of separation and divorce. We know that when two people are married, they mean it for life. Yet, at times, with some people, and in some very complex situations, it just doesn’t happen that way. Give peace and courage to all who have experienced the disruption caused by divorce or separation. Help them to accept their feelings of rejection, loneliness and grief. Help them, above all, to believe in Your presence, and to believe in the Church as a source of strength and compassion. Help all of us to be sensitive to emotional, spiritual and physical needs of children who have divorced or separated parents. Enable us to reach out in love. May our priests be aware of the pain of separated and divorced parishioners and always welcome them in parish spiritual and social activities. Especially we pray, O God, that as we continue to recognize Jesus in the “breaking of the bread”, we will carry Jesus with us and reach out to all our separated and divorced families with love, compassion and understanding. Amen.
“How Children Cope with High Conflict Divorce: How Are They Harmed and What Can Parents Do to Help Them,” Mental Help How Children Cope with High Conflict Divorce How Are They Harmed and What Can Parents Do to Help Them Comments, , accessed November 27, 2017, https://www.mentalhelp.net/blogs/how-children-cope-with-high-conflict-divorce-how-are-they-harmed-and-what-can-parents-do-to-help-them/.
Rich@ecatholic2000.com, Prayer For Healing After Separation Or Divorce, , accessed November 27, 2017, https://www.ecatholic2000.com/pray/prayer51.shtml.
Warren Bowles, III, Effects of Parental Divorce on Adult Relationships, , accessed November 27, 2017, https://www.mckendree.edu/academics/scholars/issue6/bowles.htm.