Kids generally need stable adults in their lives that help them along the path to becoming healthy adults. Because kids are deeply connected to biological parents, it is ideal for these adults to be a child’s mom and dad.
Unfortunately, we know about the realities of divorce and other family issues. We know that the ideal relationship between a mom, a dad, and a child is not always possible. So what is the answer for divorced parents? Is there a way to work together despite separation?
How Kids Are Deeply Connected to Biological Parents
While our culture today may have its own ideas, there seems to be an ideal situation for the makeup of a family. It is pretty hard to argue against the idea that, in most cases, having a united mom and dad in a family is the ideal situation for bringing up children in a healthy and balanced way. While this can be difficult if divorce enters the equation, it is not impossible, and this is why the importance of co-parenting must be considered by divorced parents. To hear an in-depth conversation about co-parenting, check out parts one and two of my discussion with Tammy Bennett-Daughtry, Founder and CEO of CoParenting International.
Why is it that many people suggest that other parenting combinations are as useful and healthy as the traditional, mom, dad, and kids model. This often comes down to the preference of each person. But let’s consider the implications of this for our entire society. Should every one person’s preference about families and how they should work take priority over what will benefit our society as a whole? And where do we draw the line on these preferences? After all, a person’s preference for his or her family could involve a marriage to a family member or some other unhealthy situation!
If a family composed of a mom, a dad, and some kids is the ideal situation for bringing up healthy children, is there a way for single-parents to establish a similar situation? On this topic, I want to discuss why I believe that divorced parents can work together to invest in the lives of their children, and how they can do it. I am speaking in general terms; I admit, this won’t work for everybody. Sometimes, a healthy single-parent can be much more equipped to bring up a child with good emotional health than an unhealthy two-parent family in which disorder and dysfunction run rampant.
I have personal experience with all of this as my parents divorced when my sister and I were quite young. I love my parents very much, but I do not think of my parents as the best examples for those seeking quality parenting advice. On the flip side, they were certainly not terrible parents. From the time that I was five years old to the time when I was finishing high school, every Friday, my dad would always pick up my sister and me at my mom’s place. My dad had many shortcomings, but he always showed up every Friday—always. His consistency in this area told me something that I still cherish today—despite the fact that I spent some weekends with a babysitter while my dad and stepmom went to work.
The message that my dad’s consistency taught me was meaningful to me for the same reasons a similar message speaks to all children. Children share a connection with their biological parents. In some ways, this accounts for the struggle of kids who have Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).
Research completed by 33 professionals in the mental health and child care fields from institutions like Emory, Yale, Harvard, Northwestern, and a few other notable schools indicates that children are built to have a connection with their biological parents. This information shows that other variations of parenting, despite how productive and healthy they may seem at first glance, make “good” compete with “best.” These findings and other useful topics are discussed in the book Hardwired to Connect: the New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities. The production of this book was completed through Dartmouth Medical School, the Institute for American Values, and the YMCA, working together in an initiative known as the Commission on Children at Risk. The study also used these 33 professionals to confirm that kids and adults are also built to connect to their Creator.
My experience growing up as a child of divorce and now operating a therapeutic residential school for troubled teens indicates to me that we should do all that we can within the boundaries of good judgment and feasibility to keep children connected with their biological parents. I do not see many reasons to avoid a co-parenting situation when divorces do happen, except when parents are completely unhealthy, dangerous, criminally insane, or substance addicted. Co-parenting helps parents maintain a parenting relationship with their kids even when living together is not possible because of divorce.