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Don’t divorce the child PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lekha Menon   

For a recently divorced parent, reaching a consensus on child’s issues is no cakewalk. Read on as Lekha Menon speaks to a few parents who didn’t let their ego battle affect their children

It’s certainly not easy seeking access to your child when you are embroiled in a legal battle. Ask Guy Ritchie. Estranged wife Madonna reportedly issued a list of 12 dos and don’ts when their kids Rocco and David visited him in London recently. The rules included a ban on TV, drinking only Kabalah water, avoiding non-organic food, among others.

Visitation rights are always a tricky issue with divorced couples. How much is too much? Is there a tendency to use children as a weapon in your battle against each other? Or do you have the maturity to not let kids get affected even if the war of words turns ugly in court? We asked a few Mumbaikars who have walked the thorny path in the past, on how to ensure the process of parenting is smooth.

‘Children are smarter than you give them credit for’
I believe that both parents should be equally involved in the upbringing of a child. My children’s custody went to my husband (who had remarried) and initially there were some problems. But I made an effort to keep in touch with them and send presents and letters. Gradually when my finances improved, I visited them and tried to forge a bond with them. I never bothered to take court permissions — I met them whenever I wanted to. Fortunately my husband saw my point of view and never objected to it, though his wife did.

We ensured that neither of us would influence their views or opinions. I pampered my children in my own way and my husband too lavished a lot of attention on them. It’s only because of this approach that my sons, aged 22 and 25 now, have the right values and their heads on their shoulders. Children are perceptive and they can draw their own conclusions; they are smarter than you give them credit for. It is best not to affect their thought-processes by too many rules or regulations.
Such is my relationship with my children that these days they are my best friends whom I can turn to for advice. I feel I have grown up with my kids. — Vinita Chopra, corporate trainer

‘Keep the lawyers out’
It is not easy to be amicable and reach a perfect understanding about children in a divorce case where there is a lot of bitterness. It can be quite traumatic for the kids.   

Though mine was a divorce by mutual consent, the law took its own course.  And the parting was far from friendly. My son who was 14 when we separated was with my wife till he turned 18. My daughter was already with her. In such cases the person who is granted custody has the upper hand and he/she sets the rules and the agenda. Initially, the accusations and finger-pointing affected my son a lot. But we decided to send him to boarding school to spare all the acrimony. That helped to quite an extent. I had to fight for access but whenever my son was with me, I would see to it that we had the best of times.

You need to believe in yourself and let time heal the wounds. We ensured that both my kids got good education. As years pass, children can make the judgement for themselves. But there is one suggestion; try to keep lawyers out of the process of deciding what’s best for children. It should be the parents’ decision only. —Sunil Doshi, chartered accountant

‘I adopted a policy of non-interference’
A divorce involves two people who have differences. Even if it is by mutual consent, somebody's ego is hurt and there would be a natural tendency to influence and emotionally blackmail the child involved. You deliberately want to hurt the other person because of your own personal angst. That's not the way it should be, but it's a human trait.

My son was three and a half when we divorced. But I was clear right from the beginning that my kid needed his father as much as he needed me. Therefore I would push him to spend holidays and more time with my ex-husband. Both of us made sure that we were available for our child at all times.

Besides, I adopted a policy of non-interference. It didn't bother me how my son spent time with his father. Even now he regularly talks to my ex-spouse and I don't even ask him the details.

Of course, earlier others tried to brainwash my kid but I just let it pass and didn't act at that moment. Today, at 15, my son is mature to view the situation in the right perspective.
—Achint Kaur, actor

‘rise above your petty differences’
My parents were divorced, but we were never used as pawns to score points against each other. There were no fights or arguments in front of us and we were loved to death. I applied the same principle when confronted with my divorce.
The rule is very simple: be the best parent possible to your children.  It's the least you can do.

Both, my ex-husband and I tried to give them a solid emotional base. There was never any issue of who was visiting whom. We share such a good rapport that the kids go on holiday with him and sometimes we holiday together too.
To be a responsible parent, you have to be able to rise above your petty differences and make a conscious effort to be there for the children. After all, the bond that you share with your kid cannot be severed even if you have cut off ties! —Pooja Bedi, actor

The Rule Book

Prepare the child for meeting the parent; don't poison his/her mind against your partner. 

If possible, have a joint meeting for the first few weeks so that the kid is familiarised with the changed situation.

Habits and patterns might differ in both parents' homes, which can confuse a child. Come to an agreement in the best interests of the kid so that his/her schedules are not affected. Involve the child too, if possible.

Avoid a situation where the child has to be brought to the court; it can prove to be quite traumatic for him/her. 

—Pratibha Gheewala, former principal marriage counsellor, Family Court and author of Rassi Khech (Tug of war), a book on divorce impacting children.


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