Is Shared Parenting Harmful To Children Of Divorced Parents?
Preschool children from divorced parents did better psychologically if they lived in shared parenting environments compared with kids living primarily with one parent, according to recently published research in Acta Paediatrica.
Experts reviewed the adjustment of 3,656 Swedish children living in two-parent families, joint custody environments, or with one parent after a divorce. Its traditionally been argued that young children (aged 3 to 5) need the stability and consistency of one home, but this research found that assumption to be false.
This study makes me very uneasy. I’m fearful that attorneys and others will use this research to justify shared parenting arrangements that are harmful to kids. Joint custody remains uncommon for some very good reasons.
People divorce for many factors, but there are typically significant issues with communication, problem-solving, and trust. Those are exactly the skills needed to make joint custody successful for kids. In some ways, shared parenting makes no sense. We’re asking parents who failed at the skills needed to maintain their marriage to use those skills in a very challenging parenting role.
I’m not condemning all joint custody arrangements, just arguing that it is extraordinarily difficult for divorced parents to work together. It’s hard to put aside intense feelings of hurt, betrayal, distrust, and anger for the sake of the kids. When that can be done, children from divorced parents do well.
Children Of Divorced Parents Face Terrible Consequences
These situations are among the most challenging I confront in my office. Therapists are supposed to be calm, objective, warm, but analytic. However, I get incredibly upset in hearing the pain and anguish of children trying to make some sense of their divorced parents’ bickering, arguing, and insults. The pain these kids feel is intense, long-lasting, and often unnecessary if only their parents would behave properly.
I get frustrated because I don’t know what to say to these divorced parents to help them realize that while their behavior may make them feel good, it has terrible consequences for their children. I ask parents to love their kids more than they dislike their ex-spouse, and stop the eye-rolling, sarcasm, and whining.
Joint custody is something you should consider if it’s really in the best interests of your child. This means you need to consider your child’s activities, education, and personality and balance that against your work schedules and other priorities. It helps if you live in close physical proximity to your ex-spouse. Mostly, it requires that you accept that a bad spouse may still be a great parent, and you are committed to using skills in being a parent that you were unable to use as a spouse.
Gregory Ramey, Ph.D., is a child psychologist and vice president for outpatient services at the Children’s Medical Center of Dayton. For more of his columns, visit www.childrensdayton.org/ramey and join Dr. Ramey on Facebook at www.facebook.com/drgregramey. Dr. Ramey has been a guest contributor to the Ohio Family Blog since 2007.
[Reprinted by permission from the December 17, 2017, edition of the Dayton Daily News, “Divorced Parents Must Put Children First”, Gregory Ramey, Phd]
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Guest Contributor Gregory Ramey, PhD, Child Psychologist and Dayton Daily News Columnist
Gregory Ramey, PhD, is a nationally recognized child psychologist and columnist who has worked at Dayton Children’s Hospital since 1979. In addition to his weekly column in the Dayton Daily News about effective parenting, Ramey has conducted more than 200 workshops and has recently been quoted in articles in Redbook, Parenting, Ladies Home Journal as well as columns distributed by the New York Times Wire Service.