Creating the Good Divorce

Creating the Good Divorce

Tools of the Trade

By Maria Isaacs

March/April 2001

Whether or not you agree with Judith Wallerstein's conclusions about the impact of divorce, this much is clear: Couples will continue to end their marriages and children will continue to be exposed to the stresses that result from these breakups. Therapists, in turn, must be prepared to help families productively reorganize themselves in the midst of pain and chaos.

The fundamental goal of a good divorce is simple yet challenging: children must experience their parents as a working partnership that reliably nurtures and protects them, regardless of how estranged the parents may be from each other. In this sense, the family as a parenting system continues. Following are a number of approaches clinicians can take to help parents and children establish this arduous, yet essential, new way of being a family.

Get Involved Early-- Become an active partner in negotiations that will shape the post-divorce family system, because these agreements--or the lack of them--can have enormous long-term impact on children. For example, Wallerstein notes that too often fathers never formally agree to pay for their child's college education. As the child approaches college age, he or she is apt to become highly anxious about this lack of commitment. Even if the father ultimately foots the tuition bill, the protracted uncertainty has already eroded the child's basic sense of trust and safety. On this and other issues…

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