Perhaps you are familiar with the Biblical story found in Chapter 3 of I Kings, where two women each claimed to be the mother of a particular child and took their case to court. King Solomon, unable to discern which woman was telling the truth, ruled, “Cut the baby in half! That way each of you can have part of him.” When one woman was satisfied with the ruling and the other yelled, “Please don’t kill my son,” it was clear which woman was the real mother…and the child was spared. While this scenario would never play out in court today under the threat of such physical violence, many parents verbally duke it out during every encounter with little to no regard for the fact that they are emotionally cutting their children in half in order to satisfy their own personal needs. So when is a fight completely appropriate and essential? And when do you say, “Please don’t emotionally kill my child”?
This week Wonderwall (no, I don’t normally read Wonderwall – it was in my news feed – honest) reported on Gwyneth Paltrow’s recent podcast in which she discussed her 2014 divorce from Coldplay’s Chris Martin (See https://www.msn.com/en-us/movies/celebrity/gwyneth-paltrow-explains-why-her-kids-holistic-dentist-encouraged-her-to-deal-with-emotional-trauma-of-divorce/ar-BB15vSWX?ocid=spartanntp). What struck me as interesting is that her holistic dentist-orthodontist, Dr. Sherry Sami, DDS, talked to her about the divorce and inspired her to resolve her own emotional issues and healing, so as not to inflict pain on her children. Dr. Sami believes, and rightly so, that children are tapped into the feelings of their parents. If parents don’t take care of themselves, they can end up traumatizing their children.
Taking all of this a step further, ugly custody battles where each parent puts their own victories and needs above the wellbeing of the children can also inflict generations of trauma directly on the children. Clearly, there is a time and a place for the ugly custody fight. The time? When it is about the best interests of the children. The place? The courtroom – not the front porch when the kids are being exchanged for parenting time.
The key is being able to see yourself, your spouse, and the children clearly. Taking care of your own issues with the help of a trained professional can help you distinguish when the fight is about you versus when the fight is about what’s best for your children. And to be perfectly clear, giving up and giving in where your spouse wants to marginalize you as a parent is not remotely in your children’s best interests. Ironically, choosing not to fight can at times be a very selfish decision. If you married someone who does not nurture the souls of your children, you do not have the luxury of taking the easy way out. Take care of yourself…and take care of your children.
As Dr. Sami shared with Gwyneth Paltrow, “Be very committed to your own healing, because that’s the best thing you can do for your child.” Well said, Dr. Sami. And if I may add, with a clear head, a holistic approach, and good legal counsel, your children are less likely to be traumatized and emotionally injured in the long run.