Imagine the scenario. You haven’t seen your kids for three years and someone could change all that in an instant. They say to you what’s the first thing you would say to them? What would your answer be?
Recently, that question was asked to one such Dad. This chap hasn’t seen his kids since he divorced from their Mum three years ago. It was an acrimonious divorce and he is convinced that the Mother has influenced their paternal alienation. He’s fought battles through the courts to try and get access but has failed. Various authorities have dug deep and are sure that the children have come to their own decisions not to see him (they are all teenagers) for various reasons. Recently when they were back in court over a civil matter that the father wanted to discuss directly with the children but one which they refused to meet with him about the judge asked him a simple question “What would you say to your kids, if you had the chance to talk to them about this?”
What would you say to your kids, if you hadn’t seen them for a while? This could have been a life changing moment for this Dad – the judge had fate in their hands effectively for it is undisputed that father’s play a vitally important role in their children’s lives. For many the role of Dad is one of protector, a resilient force that’s all powerful and in some instances this implies (or is interpreted as) controlling. But is it? Or is there more? Just looking at the Father-Daughter bond alone, an often overlooked role, a father can show his daughter how to express herself, how to relate to other men and how to be self-reliant just simply by the way he interacts with her and her mother. And the thing is fathers don’t have to be perfect, they just have to be good enough. They need to allow their daughters to feel their opinions matter and encourage them to have a voice. It’s not about controlling them and dictating to them, it’s about giving them a freedom to develop a feeling that they can be heard. The Mother can also embrace this relationship by allowing her daughter to build this bond with her father and through puberty and beyond encouraging regular contact for many fathers don’t want to be left out.
Similarly a healthy relationship between Fathers and Sons aids development but we’ll look at this in another post! The key thing is the word “healthy”. The same applies to the bond between the mother and child! We have a duty to our children to work at healthy relationships. Back in the 60’s a psychologist called Harlow undertook some famous studies on attachment. During the course of his studies he placed a baby monkey in a cage with a viciously cruel “surrogate” mother which he had constructed to blow pressurised cold air out of its body at a pressure that would throw the baby monkey against the bars of the cage as well as at random intervals eject a prod to push the baby away from the body of the mother. Despite this cruelty and abuse the monkey still continued to cling and maintain proximity to their nasty mother figure.
Clearly, whilst it is important to realise that you cannot extrapolate from studying animal behaviour and apply it to humans there is nevertheless is a salient message contained within his work that should act as a warning to parents everywhere!
So back to the courtroom, in answer to the question “What would you say to your children?” this father, replied “I’d tell them they were all unstable, and had been brainwashed!”, pretty much in line with phrases he has directly written to the children.
Maybe not surprisingly no contact was ordered, and sadly the children still choose not to have contact. The children’s wishes were granted that day over the father’s for the key fact remains that a healthy relationship will encourage the child to express themselves, to move towards self-reliance and by showing respect they will learn respect and take responsibility for themselves in the world! Together or divorced, that is the relationship that parents need to try and foster for their children between their sons and daughters and their Dads!