How close are you and your father
Graduate social worker and mediator
74889 Sinsheim, Sunnisheimring 45
How much father does a child need
-a fictional interview-
There are more and more separated and single mothers. You often find yourself confronted with the question "How much father does the child need?" But also fathers who do not live with their children often ask themselves, "How important am I for my child?". Parents who quarrel often do not know whether it is better for the child if I continue to interfere, or it will be easier for the child if I stay out of the way and leave the child to the other parent. The following (fictional) interview is suitable to convey information to parents and to give advice on how they can do their child justice in such situations. The answers are based on my many years of experience as an adviser to families in separation and divorce situations and incorporate more recent scientific findings.
1. How important are fathers to their children?
Scientific knowledge is that children growing up without a father experience limitations in their development of identity and self-worth, in their ability to bond and relate, and in their productivity. Children depend on both parents for their healthy personal development. Today it is considered a certain fact that there is no more important / unimportant parent. Both parents are equally important for child development. Without the second parent, the child cannot complete certain developmental steps, or only to a limited extent. For example, mother and child are faced with the developmental task of letting go of each other right from the start. The father plays an important role in this. He becomes the model for the child of how to be separated from the mother and yet remain connected to her. And it is the relationship with him that enables the child to take the necessary steps to relieve himself. Because the child is more likely to get involved in the conflicts with the mother associated with the detachment if it knows that there is still a second, security-giving relationship. If this second parenting relationship is missing, there is usually a "bond" to the remaining parent. The consequence of this are children who either do not leave or who break up very abruptly, i.e. break off contact completely.
If the father is absent as the second object of attachment, the child cannot have the experience of being in contact with two people who are themselves related. I.e. it does not learn how to deal with the 3-way relationship. His original experience remains limited to a two-way relationship. This in turn has an influence on how you shape your own relationships. There are repeated attempts to create exclusivity in relationships, which usually leads to social isolation. In adulthood, problems can arise when the couple relationship turns into a three-way relationship, i.e. when a child comes along. It is not uncommon for attempts to create exclusivity in the parent-child relationship and the parents become competitors for the child. Or the parenting relationship and the couple relationship fail to live in parallel and one parent either withdraws from the parenting role or from the partner role.
In families where the father is absent, the children do not have a model for the gender role. Boys then do not know how to behave as a boy, they are unsure how to deal with other boys and they also do not know how to deal with a girl as a boy.
Girls lack the experience of how to deal with a man as a woman. Usually this has the consequence that they feel insecure or uncomfortable in relationships with the opposite sex, which in turn has an influence on the later choice of partner and the durability of relationships.
It is known that daughters largely derive their self-image as women from their father. He's the first man in your life to make you feel important by paying attention to you or unimportant by not caring for you. This, in turn, has an influence on what status she ascribes to herself in a later partner relationship.
The myth: Mothers are more important than fathers the scientific basis has long been withdrawn. But it stubbornly lingers in the minds of parents and professionals. Even today, fathers often believe they are not important to their children and mothers often believe that they are more important than the father. But even in controversial custody cases, it is still a matter of finding out who the more important caregiver is, instead of orienting oneself on which parent is most likely to be able to maintain both parenting relationships with the child. However, it is the maintenance of both parents' relationships that prevents the child's developmental impairment.
2. When are fathers important to their children and how much time should fathers spend with their children?
The father is important from the start. Today we know that children develop a relationship with the father in parallel with the mother, provided that he is also available as a reference person. For this to happen, the father does not have to be involved in caring for the child to the same extent as the mother. Experience has shown that children develop intensive relationships with both parents even with the traditional division of roles (the father takes care of the family's financial needs, the mother mainly takes care of the children). The decisive factor is how well the father succeeds in recognizing the needs of his child and responding to them. To learn this he needs - just like the mother - time and experience in dealing with the child.
As far as the amount of time is concerned, the general rule applies: the younger the child, the more often the contact should take place. Because small children experience the actual affection of their parents as love, i.e. whoever looks after me loves me - whoever is not there does not love me. Absence therefore means deprivation of love. If the time intervals are too long, the child is exposed to the experience again and again, the other has left me for good, which hinders the development of a trusting relationship.
Fathers who do not live with their young children should contact them as often as possible. Frequent short contacts are cheaper than a long contact at a greater distance. American scientists recommend daily contacts for children up to 2 ½ years of age. In places where the parents live further apart and daily contact is not practicable, the parents should make sure that father and child spend time together at least every 2-3 days.
Often, however, the exact opposite happens. Parents and experts are of the opinion that contacts between the child and the father are overwhelming for the child. Although these findings have been available for 20 years, they are rarely implemented in practice. Parents are often not aware of the importance of the father for their child's development, and they have not yet been reflected in jurisprudence. To this day, it is considered sufficient if separated fathers see their children (regardless of age) for a weekend every 14 days and spend half of the vacation with them. There are no court decisions that meet the needs of small children, or at least I have not come across them to this day. Mostly the attitude is taken that the father should wait until the child is bigger and can cope better with the separation from the mother. What is overlooked is that if the child has the opportunity to develop a bond with the father right from the start, contacts with him (and thus the separation from the mother) are usually not a problem at all.
3. Can male relatives or new partners replace the biological father?
Children can benefit from such relationships. Male partners can serve as role models for assuming gender roles. But they can only partially, never completely, replace the birth parent. The relationship with the father is always important, along with other good relationships that the child can develop. That has to do with the uniqueness of this relationship. Every child has only one father. Even if the relationship is not lived, it persists. It is a grave offense to the child's soul if the father does not care, because it makes the child meaningless that he is not important enough to the father.
Experience with adoptive children shows how important the relationship with the birth parents remains even after good relationships with the adoptive parents have been developed. Therefore, considerations have started to move from incognito adoption to open adoption.
From step-parent research we know that such family constellations have the greatest chances of survival when the child Not must forego the relationship with the biological parent. Only if the new family constellation includes the birth parent can it form a functional family unit. The result of scientific research is that the child is worst off when it is supposed to forego the grown relationship with the father in favor of the new relationship. The child gets along best in stepfamilies when they can have both relationships.
4.What about the children whose fathers died?
The death of a parent usually results in a different form of grief. The father usually remains present in such families through the mother. It is she who promotes the memory of the Father. This helps the child to maintain an inner connection with him. In order to cope with the loss of a father, it is crucial that the deceased father has not charged the child with any "guilt" by not caring for his child. He did not leave the child voluntarily. It is not uncommon for abandoned children to try to help themselves with the fantasy that their father has died. This idea is easier to bear than the hurtful experience: my father doesn't want to know anything about me.
5. What advice do you give to separated parents?
The parents should stay as close as possible to one another. The parent living with the child must make room for parental activities of the parent living outside.
Parents who do not live with their child should consciously get involved in everyday parenting. It is important that the child can live part of everyday life with each parent. Parent-child relationships are not "visiting" relationships and should therefore not be designed in such a way.
With very young children, it is important to include the second parent in the daily routine to give the child the opportunity to develop a relationship.
6. What influence does the relationship between the parents have on the relationship between the child and the parent living outside?
Ms. Napp-Peters found out in 1990:
If the parents treat each other with respect and benevolence,
then 63% of the children experience their relationship with the parent living outside of them as close and warm
if the parents avoid each other, communication takes place through the children,
because only 38% of children describe their relationship with the second parent as loving and intimate.
the parents do not want to know anything about each other and refuse contact with each other
then only 5% of the children describe the second parenting relationship as satisfactory and satisfactory for themselves.
And there is another important research result from her that shows the importance of the parenting relationship for the quality of the relationship between the child and the parent living outside of it:
In families in which the second parent was still considered to be part of the family, the parents exchanged information concerning the child and occasionally saw each other at events (school party, parents' evening, child's leisure activities) or family celebrations (child's birthday, confirmation or communion) and the second parent was still involved in parental decisions, contacts between the child and the second parent were maintained.
In over half of the families, where the second parent was excluded from such activities, contact between the child and the parent living outside of it was lost.
The willingness of the parents to stay in touch with one another, to involve the other parent in the parental activities, is therefore indispensable from a child's point of view. However, one often hears that this is unreasonable for the parents (or the mothers). This is exactly where the interface is where it is decided what should have priority in the future: the fulfillment of the interests of the parents or those of the children.
7. What should be done if parents disagree on issues affecting their children? Is it still important for the child to have contact with the other parent?
It is not uncommon for the image of the previous partner to change in the course of the relationship. Especially when partnerships diverge, often nothing or not much remains of what you once felt for this person and what you once valued so much about this person is forgotten. In a crisis situation, people tend to put their own interests first and forget about the interests and needs of others. Therefore, in the separation / divorce situation, the needs of the child and those of the other parent are usually neglected. It is not uncommon for not only the other person's qualities as a partner to be questioned, but also their suitability as an educator for the child. Parents then often overlook the fact that although their love for the other partner has expired, the love of the child for the other parent continues unchanged.
Regardless of how the parents assess each other as a person, it remains important for the child to have contact with both parents and to maintain an inner bond with the mother and the father. This makes it necessary for the parents to resolve their conflicts or to ensure that they do not extend their couple problems to the parental level and that a dispute over the child develops.
Wherever there are actually different opinions about the "correct" upbringing of the child, it is important that the parents learn to accept these differences. Children can benefit from the experience that it is possible to deal with things differently. Even if parents live together, there is usually a more indulgent and a stricter parent and the parents set different priorities, for example, regarding table manners, toilet training, keeping things tidy, eating healthy or watching TV. In the case of separated parents, it is therefore often a matter of reaching agreements, according to which the ex-partner should agree Not Interfering in the way the children are brought up or the rules that apply in the other household instead of constantly checking what the other is doing with the child. Children usually get along quite well with the fact that different rules apply in the other household. This is supported by experiences from other areas in which children have two at home. This is the case, for example, when children spend part of the week with their grandparents, with foster parents, in a home or at boarding school.
8. However, it is often the child who refuses contact with the other parent. So what? Should parents then force their children into contact with the father or mother?
The change of the child from one parent to the other can be seen as a seismograph. Here the extent of the existing problems becomes visible. Often it is the child who acts it out by refusing contact with the other parent. As a rule, however, this does not mean that they no longer love the other parent or that they actually no longer want contacts.
Small children in particular have to learn to deal with the situation of having to leave their mother to see their father and vice versa. Often it is then sufficient to make the handover situation more child-friendly. This can mean asking the father into the apartment instead of leaving the child like a package in front of the front door. If the child has the opportunity to get a little warm with the father and the mother slowly withdraws from the action, then it is usually no longer a problem that the child goes with the father.
Or the time intervals are too long. As a result, the child is repeatedly exposed to the experience that the other has now finally left him, which stands in the way of building a trusting relationship. The right intervention here would be to shorten the time intervals, to create more closeness by integrating the other parent more into the parenting tasks.
Sometimes the child has got caught between the front lines and therefore refuses contact with the other parent. Most children get into a loyalty conflict when their parents' partnership breaks up. They then do not know whether they can continue to love both parents. You are then dependent on the support of both parents. Each parent must allow the child to continue to love one another and to show that love openly. You need to convey to the child that it is okay to feel differently about the other parent than he / she does.
Sometimes the parents do not help, or one parent (usually the carer) consciously or unconsciously uses the child's conflict of loyalty to exclude the other parent from the child's life. Then it comes to the development of one PA syndrome in the child: the splitting of the parents into a beloved (good) and one allegedly hated (bad, nasty) parent.
Usually the mother is the preferred parent and the child pretends not to want anything more to do with the father. In fact, the child continues to love the father. It denies its affection for him in order to be loyal to the manipulating parent. The cause of the child's negative behavior does not lie in the relationship with the rejected parent, but in the relationship with the preferred parent.
9. How does it work, how do you have to imagine it?
Fear plays a major role in the development of PA syndrome. Sometimes it is also hatred or revenge that makes parents act that way. The child's relationship with the other parent should be interrupted in order to reduce their own fear or to satisfy the need for revenge or to act out feelings of hatred. The child is abused for this purpose. The child is expected to feel and act in the same way as the manipulating parent. It is not perceived that the child is dependent on the inner bond with the second parent.
Means that are used for this are the breaking of contact with the father and his devaluation as a person: he is a liar, failure, cheat, etc. and as an educator: he doesn't take good care of you, doesn't understand you, doesn't take good care of you. The child receives the message that the affection you feel for the father is wrong. He's not a lovely person. The lack of contact between father and child prevents the child from having his or her own (different) experiences with him. Therefore, over time, the child ceases to rely on his sensations and feelings and eventually lives the feelings of the manipulating parent. However, this is at the expense of the child's development of autonomy and the father-child relationship.
10. How can you tell whether the rejection has been manipulated?
An unmistakable identification mark is that the negative behavior decreases the further away the manipulating parent is. It may well be that the child refuses contact with the other parent as long as both parents are in the room or the manipulating parent is sitting in front of the door. That the child can make contact with the other parent without any problems when the manipulating parent is far away.
Another characteristic is that facial expressions / gestures and what is said do not go together. For example, the child smiles when they say that they are sad when they have to visit their father.
Or the reasons for the negative behavior are based on heard events, not on experienced ones. "My mom said" ...
Or the reasons for rejection are succinct and would never be sufficient for such behavior under normal circumstances. e.g. I always have to clear the table there, I don't have a room of my own, etc.
11. What maneuvers are used to break the contact?
Often, manipulative parents move out without telling the other where the child is. Or new reasons are always being found why contacts should not (yet) take place. It is often argued that the child needs rest / time to get used to the new situation. Visits by the child to the father should only take place when the child is able to cope with them psychologically. Symptoms that the child shows as a result of the separation situation are described as being caused by the other parent: "Patrick is always very nervous before visiting his father. And when he comes back it sometimes takes days before I put him back on the line His father just doesn't understand how to respond to him properly. He does things with him that are overwhelming and upset for the boy. So I think it is best for the child if he has less contact with his father or both of them in the future not see each other for the time being. "
The aim is to strengthen one's own relationship with the child by weakening the other. It's about getting the time to do it. Therefore, existing court decisions are either interpreted to the detriment of the other parent or simply ignored. New reasons are always being found why the court decision cannot be implemented. All other things (e.g. going to kindergarten, visiting friends, birthdays of distant relatives or acquaintances, even certain television programs) are more important than maintaining a relationship with the father.
Most of the time, great importance is attached to the fact that the Will of the child is observed. Manipulating parent and Child emphasize that it is the child's independent and uninfluenced decision not to visit the other parent. Then you can hear, for example: "The boy just knows what he has to think of his father. I can understand that he does not want to visit him". Instead of taking responsibility for the establishment of the second parenting relationship, the manipulating parent assures the child that he is supporting the child in getting his or her will: "If you really don't want to visit your father, you can count on me. I will do everything to make you yours Come right ".
12. What maneuvers are used to change the picture in the child?
-A very effective method is to double-bind the child. I.e. that
The child receives the verbal message: if you want, you can visit your father. Gestures / facial expressions express: if you love me, you stay. The non-verbal message is the stronger one, which is why the children usually respond to it.
-If the child reports great experiences with the other parent, then the manipulating parent devalues them by calling them trivial, insignificant or dangerous.
-The rejected parent's efforts to keep in touch with their child are known as "harassment". He becomes a "troublemaker" and "troublemaker". The younger the child is, the more likely it is that it will take on such assessments because it is not yet able to assess situations independently.
- Or it is asserted that the father's attempts to keep in contact are not about the child at all, but about exercising power. It is not conveyed to the child that the other acts in this way out of love for him.
- Fear scenarios are initiated without any real background. For example, the children are instructed to use the other side of the street if they meet the other parent or to run away from them or to hide, not to open the door for them. This tells the child that your father is someone to be afraid of.
-The other parent is not allowed to take part in important events that affect the child, this not only weakens the father-child relationship, the child also receives the message that your father is an undesirable person.
Everything from the child's environment is connected that could remind him of the other parent. There are no pictures of him and people only talk about him in negative ways, if at all. His gifts may not be accepted or must be returned.
13. What advice do you give to rejected fathers?
I would like to encourage you to work to maintain the relationship with the child. As a rule, it is better for children to have the certainty of having a father who fights for them, who stands up for them, than to have a father who does not care, who is indifferent to them.
Unfortunately, marginalized fathers are often advised to withdraw, to give mother and child time to wait for the child to express their own desire for contact. However, this advice is wrong. The development of a PA syndrome is a process-like event. The longer the child is exposed to manipulative behavior, the more difficult it becomes to stop the syndrome.
The accusation that fathers act to exacerbate the conflict when they insist on contact with their children is unjustified. Rather, the actions of the father are in harmony with the child's interests and represent an adequate and necessary response to exclusionary behavior.
The most promising way is to seek help from family therapy. This requires the understanding of all family members that this is necessary in the interests of the child. Most of the time, however, the manipulating parent refuses to participate. Then the rejected parent is dependent on the help of the court. It is important that the courts never allow contacts between the child and the rejected parent to be broken. It is the judicial arrangement of the contacts that gives the child the necessary freedom to decide how to cultivate the relationship. The child then does not have to justify his behavior to the manipulating parent. A court order and the willingness to enforce such decisions, if necessary against the will of the manipulating parent, not only help the child. They represent an appeal to the manipulating parent's lost consciousness of injustice. As a rule, he is not clear about what he is taking away from the child and the other parent.
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