The rules of disengagement
Marlon Abrahams helps separated parents focus on their kids.
The single most important rule in divorced or single parenting is to remember that you love your kids, and that everything you do in terms of how you interact with your ex should be in their best interests. Live by this rule and you’ll find that you’ll have a better working relationship with your ex, and that your kids are much happier and less messed up. Divorce is regarded by some experts as the second most traumatic experience, after the death of a loved one, no matter whether it’s amicable, or as in most cases, ugly and nasty.

And in many cases the kids end up being unwilling pawns or victims of their parent’s agendas. Look, it’s understandable, but it’s also unnecessary and very damaging to the kids.

I’ve received requests for advice from men and women on the issue on all the classic scenarios like: “My ex is a low-life who doesn’t pay maintenance but can afford to take his new girlfriend on holiday.” Or “my ex is happy to take my maintenance payments every month, but changes our agreed visitation schedule to please her.” Or even “my ex is poisoning my kid’s mind, telling him/her bad things about me.”

It’s very normal to be extremely upset with an ex during and shortly after the breakup of the marriage or relationship, but both of you probably love your kids more than life itself. What needs to be top-of- mind is that love for your children.

All a kid wants is to have two parents who are there emotionally, physically, financially and so on; little Johnny or Thandi need and want to be with both mom and dad. It’s important that your kids have access to both parents without manipulation or hidden agendas. There are countless examples of kids growing up with one or more parents missing who end up delinquents or worse. Sure, there are some who survive the experience and rise above it, but those are in the minority.

If you are able to be a part of your child’s life, you have a responsibility to do everything in your power to be there. Emotions and drama can be reduced by a visit to the Family Advocate’s office, which doesn’t require loads of cash. From my experience of this institution, they don’t give a rat’s posterior about how the parents feel about each other, all they care about is what’s best for the kid.

That’s the best way to deal with drama with an ex: to focus on what’s best for the kid. And yes, sometimes that may mean keeping them away from a mother or father hooked on drugs or alcohol or other dysfunctional habits. These are clear no-nos. But the petty politics and manipulation of the kids to get one over an ex is definitely not in their best interests. If you love your kids, focus on that, and you should find that your anger and bitterness of the breakup will not be an issue in relating to the children.

This is the subject of my next show, Who’s Your Daddy? Live on DSTV Mindset Channel 319 at 21:00, Saturday 22 October 2011. Join me and my guests, Gary Da Silva from Fathers for Justice, as well as single dad and aspiring author Spencer Klein and Masanda Peter, fellow Parent 24 Columnist, blogger and single mom.

Read more by Marlon Abrahams

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