This particular article has been on my computer for quite some time now – incomplete. What compelled me to complete it was my son’s 19th birthday. Born of my first marriage and raised solely by my husband and me for the past seventeen-plus years, my son has only a few memories of time spent with his biological father. My children have made me acutely aware of Parental Disconnect issues. I hope that sharing my thoughts on it will help save others from the pain and confusion we have had to work through.
After a divorce the parent/child disconnect can occur in a variety of ways: some, sadly, by forces beyond our control, and equally sad, some by personal choice. It is not surprising that relationships change when the family unit breaks down. Logistically, parents and children no longer enjoy unlimited access to one another. Often they will only see one another outside of the home that they once shared as a family unit and many times only on scheduled visits.
Over time, for some families, these changes can be a catalyst that strengthens the personal parent/child bond. They begin to view their time together as special, quality vs. quantity time. They may begin to pay closer attention and appreciate the unique roles that each family member plays removed from the stress of a pre-divorce household.
For others, “disconnect” becomes the new normal as family members get used to living apart, over time becoming more and more estranged from one another.
Years ago I wrote several articles on the issue of Parental Alienation Syndrome. I recognized that it was a serious problem for many divorced families, and through the many letters I received, gained a deeper understanding of how painful it could be and the suffering that both parents and children experience.
In short, Parental Alienation Syndrome is where one parent mentally manipulates the children into believing that the other parent is at fault and to blame for all that is wrong in their life. The “offending parent” is then viewed as someone to fear, hate and or disrespect. The children believe that their loving parent has transformed into a person who cannot be trusted and must, therefore, be avoided. Many parent-child relationships have been adversely affected by PAS and the effects often last into adulthood.
As awful as PAS is, and certainly I am not denying that it exists and is a challenge for many families, what I have noticed is that often a situation portrayed as PAS by a parent who has a very limited or non-existent relationship with his/her children is in fact not a result of PAS at all – but rather a convenient excuse.
Redesigning and maintaining a healthy relationship with your children after divorce can be very challenging. The best of circumstances involve many hurdles and adjustments, both logistically and emotionally. Unfortunately, there are parents who find these stumbling blocks too difficult and simply give up, and/or just don’t make the necessary effort to stay connected once the marriage breaks down. Their desire to “move on” with their own lives often prevails; leaving little room for the remnants of a failed marriage, or the demands of parenthood.
Rather than taking action and putting in the hard work needed to resolve conflicts, it is far easier to shirk responsibility and “believe” that a broken relationship with one’s children could be blamed on the ex-spouse who did not “allow” the relationship and brainwashed the children.
Armed with the false belief that their actions are justified, some even think that they have taken the “high road” by stepping aside so that their child will not have to pick sides or choose which parent to be loyal to, allowing them the feeling that they are putting their child’s needs above their own interests. In reality this is rarely the case. More often than not it is their own personal desires that fuel their choices, not their children’s needs.