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Children: Damage by Divorce Is Not Mandated — Part 2

Rachel Alexander Aug. 7, 2019

{4 minutes to read} Building on the recent blog series called Three Parenting Mistakes Good Parents Make, this article turns to some less known and less discussed parental misconceptions and missteps to be avoided in divorce (and marriage).


This occurs when a parent limits his involvement with the child because of the difficulty in the parental relationship. Instead of being as involved as she would like, in an effort to alleviate the ongoing hostilities, the parent will retreat, almost exiting out of her parenting role, sacrificing regular contact with the child. When parental conflict is intense and unmanageable, this last resort “strategy” of capitulation is understandable, but the child likely experiences it as desertion.

For the benefit of the child, both parents need to continue to foster a relationship between themselves that encourages one another’s presence in the child’s life. This is a time for parents to fight for their child, not with one another.

In fact, possibly the most important thing to advocate on behalf of your child is the presence of both parents in his/her life. Oddly enough, sometimes children from “intact” families do not receive the benefit of the two-parent household — many times they are parented by only one available adult. It turns out that living under one roof often means exactly — and only — that. It is neither a premise nor promise of two engaged, equipped parents.

This is a time for parents to fight for their child, not with one another.


Another subtle but critical error of divorcing parents is adopting the erroneous belief that they no longer comprise a parental unit. Reliance on a parental unit is one of the great benefits a child can receive. While having the support of two distinct parents is good, having the collective strength of a parental team is better. There is an additional power and reassurance provided when these two most important people — these parents — pull together for a unified purpose. Two cooperating, mature parents, demonstrating teamwork out of their combined wisdom and love for their child — this is the essential stuff of parenting.

So the end of the marital unit does not, in fact — must not! — disassemble the parental unit. Instead, the divorce must be used as an opportunity to examine and consciously shape this parenting constituency into something workable and wonderful.

When parents conflate divorce from a spouse with disengagement from children, they lose a critical opportunity to provide a foundational resource for their children. Even when parents are no longer romantically together, they support their child best by standing together. And often, once the parents have removed themselves from that intense engagement in their conflicted marital relationship, their focus can be on parenting, enabling their child to feel securely attached and loved by both of them.

…living under one roof often means exactly — and only — that.

When parents overcome their conflict in order to co-parent, children experience their parents as capable and trustworthy, and themselves as valued and loved. Prioritizing parenting over spousal discord, “winning,” being right, making a point or otherwise maintaining an adversarial stance, blesses the children in multiple ways. This takes bravery and love. And is a remarkable way parents care for their children, by simultaneously meeting their children’s fundamental needs to be cared for, and by modeling mature behavior to which their offspring can aspire.