Even Ph.Ds. in psychology don’t get it (Fox News, 9/9/18). Honestly, you’d think Dr. Kevin Leman would, but alas, he doesn’t. If you’re going to advise clients going through divorce (which he does), it would seem to be Job One to, you know, read the literature on the subject.
Leman offers some perfectly sound advice to parents about how to deal with their kids during divorce.
With divorce’s bomb, [the child]’s understandably upset, especially if he’s already part of the hormone group. So give him some grace, but don’t excuse disrespect and foul language. Though the heat of the moment isn’t the best time to take on negative behaviors, the next day is fair game: “Let’s circle back to what happened yesterday. I know you’re hurting, but what you said really hurt me. I’m your mother – not your psychological punching bag. We will get through this tough time, but I want to do that in a healthy way. I’ll do my part the best I can, and I need you to do your part the best you can too. Can we agree on that?”
Your ex isn’t likely your favorite person, but don’t use your kids as a sounding board for your squabbles. Putting down your ex is only asking your kids to make him into “Father of the Year.” So, for their sake, extend an olive branch – as much as he might not deserve it. Don’t extract information about what they did at your ex’s or who was there. You aren’t licensed to be a private eye. Instead, provide a warm environment (food helps!) and some non-stressed space to return to. If they want to talk, believe me, they will – of their own volition – and you’ll learn a lot more than any extraction technique known to humankind.
All that is sensible enough. It’s also nothing anyone should pay good money for. It’s about as basic a set of common sense as you’re likely to find. Any reasonably bright friend, neighbor or relative who truly has your best interests at heart could give you the same for free. Still, it’s fine as far as it goes.
As to shared parenting though, Leman’s woefully ignorant of the basics. He simply recycles what any anti-shared parenting lawyer would write in an op-ed for a publication that doesn’t know any better.
With most divorces, parents want to do the 50/50 kid split, but that approach takes a toll on already-stressed kids. That’s why – as improbable and crazy as it might sound – I tell divorcing couples, “If you’re so high on having to spend equal time with your kid, then you two move from place to place and let the kid stay in his own home.” After all, who’s the adult here?
And I could ask Leman, “who’s the psychologist here, me or you?”
Here’s the reality. Divorce is hard on kids, but the best outcome for them is 50/50 shared parenting time, assuming both parents are fit and their geographical separation doesn’t make it impossible. The old chestnut that 50/50 time takes a toll on kids because they’re bouncing between one parent and another is simply flat wrong. Whatever problems they have due to that are far more than outweighed by the benefits of maintaining real, meaningful relationships with both parents. As Dr. Malin Bergstrom’s research in Sweden shows, 50/50 time is a better arrangement for kids than any other save living in an intact family with their mother and father.
As a service to Dr. Leman, this link to the National Parents Organization website handily condenses most of the important research on shared parenting when it’s compared to other post-divorce arrangements and in a wide array of different families, e.g. those with infants or toddlers, those in which there’s high conflict, etc.
The results are in. They’ve been in for a long time. Equal parenting of kids following divorce is best for them. Psychologists like Leman need to take a few hours out of their lives, go to the NPO website and read the material that demonstrates the fact. Then, and only then, should they take to the pages of major publications to opine about the matters of parents, kids and divorce.
Thanks to Don for the heads-up.