Globe and Mail


Divorce expert Hanna McDonough responds to comments from readers of the Family Matters series

The Globe and Mail
Friday, October 8, 1999

My boyfriend and I have been together for almost 6 years, and we have 3 children between us.

What I think is really important to help kids with divorce is to keep them from hearing about important issues. They don't need to know about the financial aspects of divorce, or the child support, or when the other parent buys something expensive that they couldn't necessarily afford.

Don't talk about the other parent in front of the kids, and definitely don't use the kids for information regarding the other parent. Sooner or later, the kids will see what is really going on when they are constantly pumped for information.
Jessica Smith

Dear Jessica:
You are absolutely right. When parents, inadvertently, use their children in their fight, drawing them into acting like spies, pawns, mediators or advocates, they are undermining the child's trust in them. Then the child has no one to trust.

As a single dad with custody, I can't stress strongly enough that as parents we need to work harder to keep the marriage intact. Our no-fault divorce laws have contributed greatly to our selfish needs of not having to stay committed, of finding the easy way out. Although my parents' marriage was not made in heaven, I feel that I'm better prepared for life's experiences than a person from a broken marriage. . . .

We must move towards "shared parenting" after divorce. Our Justice Minister, Anne McLellan, has a report on her desk titled "For The Sake Of The Children." This is the result of a joint committee of the Senate and House of Commons that toured Canada to hear what we had to say. . . . Ms. McLellan has chosen to not deal with the report until 2002. . . .

If as a community we care about the well-being of our children of divorce, we need to lobby Ms. McLellan to act now and not after an election.
Single Dad

Dear Single Dad:
You and several others have suggested we strengthen marriage rather than try to improve divorces. There is something in what you say. We give couples a lot of support to get married, but where is the support and acknowledgment when the couple face their struggles? And where is the social support, the family ritual when families separate?

We expect couples to live happily ever after and when they don't (who ever does?) we treat them like pariah.

I agree words are important and talking of shared responsibility is better than talking of shared custody. You fight for custody (as though a child is a chattel), but you don't fight for responsibility.

I think that both parents need to co-operate and establish a civil relationship with their ex-partner so that the child/children does not have to be exposed to bitterness every time both parents have to meet.
Fozeah S.

Dear Fozeah S.
You are absolutely right. If every time a parent comes to pick up the child s/he is met with hostility, it affects the child's ability to welcome the other parent. Children won't show their love to a parent in the presence of the parent that disapproves.

One of the reasons some parents stop seeing their children is precisely because they cannot tolerate being met with bitterness every time they come for the child. Sometimes they remove themselves from the child's life because they cannot tolerate the horrible position it places the child in.

This is a major tragedy for the child.

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