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My friend and his wife have terrible fights and it is probably best if they split up. The problem is they have a bright 4-year-old boy that could become a pawn. When you speak to each of them individually, they both claim that won't happen, but their track record is more of selfish behavior. How can concerned friends and family convince them to do the right thing and not just say they are?


Nadia Thonnard Replied: Hi and how wonderful that this family has such a concerned friend and your concerns are so right. It is true that most parents do not know the harm they cause their children in this situation but at this point your concerns are very anticipated it seems. Even though they have terrible fights, have they discussed the option of splitting up? perhaps the immediate support is to bring into awareness that their fights are probably very scary for their son and help them see that this way of behaving does not serve anyone in the family and that they should perhaps consider seeking help to better their communication pattern. Put the child in perspective and remind them that as parents they are role models and what are they modeling to their little boy with those horrific fights. Should the relation end, hopefully they would already be conscious of their pattern and adjust it for the wellbeing of their son. The most important is bringing them to be aware of it in a gentle way. If they are your friends they are most probably fine people who haven't learned how to manage their unmet needs and emotions and it shouldn't take much effort to help them focus on their son's needs. I wish you all the best. Love and Gratitude. Nadia
Posted On 2009-08-04 13:15:18
Rosalind Sedacca Replied: Wonderful question from a friend who truly cares. And you're very right that too many parents say one thing and do another post-divorce. These parents need to understand the dramatic impact divorce can have on children of all ages when parents make unaware decisions and behave selfishly. There are many excellent books that can shed light on this subject, including my own: How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children -- with Love! A therapist or support group in advance of the divorce would be of value, as well. They will learn about the consequences of using their child as a pawn, badmouthing the other parent or alienating their son from a close relationship with the other parent. Please direct them to divorce websites that offer articles and ezines on parenting issues so they understand in advance how to co-parent with respect and maturity in the months and years ahead. Good luck!
Posted On 2009-08-02 20:38:20
Mike Mastracci Replied: At least they have good friends. It is good that you care. I suggest that they each learn about the collaborative divorce model. Go to and learn about it and search for collaborative lawyers and professionals in the area. If parties commit to that process and avoiding court, the lawyers can keep them on the right path and enlist the help of child specialists, divorce coaches and the like to assist if needed. Unfortunately, you are correct, they may say they won't put their child in the middle but at times that is easier said then done. They need to get advice from collaboratively trained professionals. Wish them well.
Posted On 2009-08-02 20:06:06
Marsha Temlock Replied: I suggest they enroll in a Children First class that is offered to parents (often free of charge by the divorce courts) who are getting divorced. Check your local directory for a social service agency to find out where the course is being held. Some states mandate this class.
Posted On 2009-07-29 08:53:24
Dr. Tom Greenspon Replied: You've already taken the most important step in helping this young man: you've spoken with his parents about your concerns. The other thing that would be helpful is a conversation, preferably among the three family members, in which it is made clear that the child will never have to take sides in the arguments between his parents. He should also know, as should all children in this situation, that he did not cause the rift between his parents, and that if they do divorce they will not be separating from him (which we must hope will be the case). If it hasn't been done already, this sounds like a good time for your friends to consult with a professional who does marriage and family therapy. The goal would be to see if things can be worked out between them. If not, then the goal would be to find a way to divorce that would preserve everyone's integrity and to allow their son to grow up with secure attachments to each parent even though the connection between parents has been lost. Keep talking to your friend; you can't make anything happen unless they agree and work for it, but your input is both appropriate and potentially valuable.
Posted On 2009-07-26 23:22:20
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