Have you seen these two books by Leonard Sax, M.D.? They might be considered required reading for every parent and step-parent. That we are in a cultural crisis and our children are suffering is certainly supported by Sax’s thesis, complete with research and outcome studies.
These are not soothing books, despite my focus on self-soothing lately. In fact, you might be alarmed at some of the things you’ll learn.
If a nuclear family struggles with issues of appropriate boundaries and structure for the children and teens, then it’s even more troubling to see how those boundaries and structures fall apart amidst the discord between divorced parents. Sax does not write specifically about children of divorce, but he lays out enough research that you can make the obvious conclusion even if you aren’t looking for it.
Divorce, in and of itself, doesn’t seem the culprit here. The toxic environment for kids is created when their parents are out-and-out fighting or maintaining their version of the Cold War. Neither one of these is healthy and both create incredible stress on any child.
But, there is hope. There is hope that divorced parents mired in the pattern of blaming the other will open their eyes and see that the child is the big loser. The child is the one who needs the structure and loses when he or she is brought up without it.
There is hope that a mother will read these books and decide that setting boundaries like bedtime and computer use are vital for her child. There is hope that a father reading these books will discover that his child needs him to step in and interrupt negative situations instead of going along with the status quo.
I hold hope for my friends’ son who is on a serious downward spiral, nearing the bottom with his negative lifestyle. He began a four year college and transferred away to a community college and now that isn’t working. He’s failing all of his classes and spending his evenings partying. May his mother let even the tiniest bit of the evidence touch her heart so that her son can get help that he needs to grow into a healthy and mature adult who can be in sustainable and sustaining relationships. May his mother let his father guide the way to something more healthy as the father is attempting to do. May his mother drop the warfare about who is the winner of the children and who they love more. May she stop smothering her children in her pursuit of being loved.
And, I hold hope for my other friends’ stepdaughter who struggles to keep up with the competition from her mother for clothes, fashion, looks, and the perfect body. Clearly the daughter will never be like her mother, thus she’s caught in a perpetual negative competition, repeatedly reminded of how she can never measure up. That type of warfare is heart-breaking to watch. I want to whisk the girl away and let her spend time among women who are loving and accepting and understand that the body is one aspect of our lives but that there are a multitude of other characteristics that matter just as much or more.
Sadly, I could keep listing children who struggle among my friends’ families and it would get to be a very long list. Divorced or not divorced, this is the time for everyone to work together, for the mother’s child’s future and the father’s child’s future. They are one and the same.