How to improve parent child communication and relationship during families transition through Separation or Divorce…

Every Friday evening, Matt would go to his ex-wife’s house to pick up his daughter, Wendy, for their weekend access.  His heart was racing, and a cold sweat formed on his forehead.  He could already picture it in his mind.  His ex-wife would come out with Wendy in hand, both looking a bit tense.  His ex-wife would then give him looks of anger and disgust as she tearfully hugged Wendy. Finally, she would say, “I am going to miss you so much.”

Once in the car, Wendy would fall silent and not answer his questions.  Matt could not understand what went wrong.  Before the divorce, Wendy and Matt would play sports, play outside, and enjoy each other’s company. Now, Matt was feeling rejected by Wendy.  Some access days were worse than others. Sometimes Wendy would run away, act out or cry for her mom.

Children, like adults, have big feelings in a divorce.  It is possible that Wendy felt terrible for her mom since Matt left home.  Wendy was also feeling abandoned, and she had a hard time hiding her anger.  Wendy was emotionally confused.  A part of her longed for her dad, part of her was angry with him for leaving, and part of her felt guilty for being angry.  Wendy was also scared that her dad was going to get mad at her for rejecting him.

Matt could only feel his own emotions, and he missed that his daughter was experiencing an emotional roller coaster.  He wanted to help her, but he did not know-how.  He blamed his ex-wife for turning Wendy against him.  Everyone in the family was hurt, feeling rejected and angry.

Reunification therapy helps separating, divorcing, or high conflict families manage big emotions and conflict.  This therapy is family-focused and is centred around changing family dynamics so that the parents can co-parent in a way that doesn’t make the children feel like they have to parent the parents, mediate conflict, or feel the parents’ big emotions.  The reunification process begins with the parent who the children live with, then the other parent, and finally the children.  The parents learn how to lower the conflict, understand the child’s feelings, and manage their own big emotions.  The children will go through therapy to decrease anxiety, anger, and any other stresses that they are feeling.  If, and when the family is ready, co-parenting sessions and family sessions can be introduced.

Dr Monica Borschel offers conflict management and reunification therapy online through the MindNLife Clinic in Hong Kong.