"Honour your father and your mother, so that you shall live long in the land God has given you"
. (quote: the Bible- Ten Commandments).
"Prevention is the best Medicine"
- my grandmother said this many times... As I am sure many (grand)ma's did!
Now it does seem strange to start this chapter with a quote from the Bible, being a person who (hardly ever) goes to church. Yet I couldn't help remembering this old line that I had heard hundreds of times in my youth, perhaps even thousands of times growing up in a religious church-going family in Canada. At the time I always wondered at that particular Commandment: it seemed to be so ridiculous. It stated the obvious. "Who would even think of not honouring their father and mother?" A naive perception of a child growing up in a stable, conservative home. Only now I am beginning to appreciate the real meaning of these words. It is, for all of us, the Best Defence possible in a nutshell. We must realize that if we love our children we will inspire respect in our children for both
of their parents, and, indeed, for all
people regardless of race, age or convictions. As we have seen by the length and gravity of all possible symptoms induced by PAS in children, God was not joking when He said that the flip-side of not- honouring our parents would be a serious decrease in our days on this earth and the threat of uprooting.
Children losing contact with half of their family... Past memories scorned or even wiped out without a trace (example: destroying early photographs because the 'other' parent may be on them). Suddenly the child's earliest memories seem to be something they must deny or be ashamed of. Children run the risk of being taken into foster care, drifting from foster- family to foster family and losing contact with one (or both) of their parents. In some cases, children in foster care drift from institution to institution. Roots that had been put down are wiped out and children become helpless tumbleweeds, driven by every wind coming from whatever direction.
Depression, lack of self-esteem and increased suicide rates among children who have their lives torn apart by PAS sadly testifies to the 'shortening of their days' part of the Heavenly warning...
What can be done to prevent PAS in our children?
When caught in a divorce situation it becomes our challenge to treat our ex partner with respect, and inspire our children to do this as well. The fact that we have decided to live separate lives does not require that we hate each-other or try to destroy one another. Respecting the other parent is done best by following one simple principle: 'treat others as you would like to be treated'. If the things you say to your children about your ex could not be said in the presence of your ex-partner, then you might wonder if the things you are saying to your children are wise to tell them. Karma dictates: 'as you give, so shall you receive'... What comes around, Goes around!
- Love yourself! Like who you are. Learn to love and enjoy your life again. The value of this point is greatly underestimated. The key to giving our children the best possible circumstances to grow up in is that we ourselves are strong individuals. If necessary, get professional help to achieve this goal, and resist the temptation to use children as 'therapists' or surrogate partners!
- Always treat your ex- partner with respect. Your child has, after all, 50% of your ex-partner's genes... Denying that is 'denying' half your child. (Respect does not mean you have to agree to everything your ex-partner says... See point # 6).
- Make a 'co-parenting plan' with your ex-partner before you divorce. If you can't agree on things, ask someone to Mediate for you both. (There are many professional 'Mediators' or Counsellors who can do this for you.) Remember that you are doing this for your children!
- Speak as little as possible of your ex partner with the children. If you must tell them something concerning their father or mother, then present it in a factual way, leaving out personal opinions.
- Support, or at least refrain from commenting on the decisions of your ex-partner in the presence of the children.
- If there are differing points of view on a subject pertaining to discipline, discus this privately with your ex- partner, NEVER in front of the children.
- Preserve memories; save photo's and films... Children need their roots. Give your children the respect and freedom they deserve to make up their own opinions about the choices you (and your ex-partner) have made in the past!
- Invite each other to be at important events: birthdays, (swimming-) diploma's, graduation, sports events or performances in which your child takes place...
If we follow these guidelines then we can give our children stability and maximize the social benefits of extended family for our children in spite of being a family split by divorce.