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Keep Kids Out Of The Middle!

by Nancy Hudgins, Debra Synovec
December 2008

From the Real Divorce Mediation Blog of Nancy Hudgins and Debra Synovec

Do you want your children to thrive after divorce? First, learn to communicate respectfully and stop saying negative things about the other least when the children can hear. Keep your children are out of the middle and take steps to prevent parental alienation. Mediation can help.

Unfortunately, many parents do not consider how their behavior causes parental alienation and can devastate their children. My friend, Mike Doherty, chair of Children’s Rights Council of Illinois, an organization dedicated to promoting healthy, respectful co-parenting, let me know parental alienation is so widespread that even “Dear Abby” writes about it!

Parental alienation can range from small slights made within earshot of the children to outright campaigns, complete with sabotaging scheduled parenting time to making disparaging remarks about the other parent directly to the children. Children thrive when they are kept out of the divorce conflict and feel free to love both parents; children suffer if they have to decide who the better or worse parent is. Even negative comments that to you seem relatively benign, are taken to heart by children and cause them to feel conflicted.
If you feel parental alienation is occurring seek help! A good place to start is at gather information from the Children's Rights Council (CRC) as “Dear Abby” suggests or read Divorce Ends a Marriage But Not the Difficulties of Parenting by Wendy Gregson M.F.T. and Bruce Derman. Ph.D.
As Cynthia Shifrin, a Seattle therapist, once said to me, “maybe parents can’t give their children a healthy marriage, but they can at least give them a healthy divorce”. Have a dialogue with your spouse about it…….bring it up in mediation…….. your children deserve a healthy divorce!


Nancy Hudgins, a San Francisco mediator and lawyer, began specializing in civil litigation in the 1970's. She has represented both plaintiffs and defendants, chiefly in personal injury, medical malpractice, elder abuse and product liability lawsuits, but also in a wide variety of complex litigation, including civil rights, fraud and class actions. She has settled and mediated thousands of cases. In addition to civil litigation mediation, she also co-mediates divorces with John Duda, a marriage and family therapist.

Debra Synovec, a Seattle-based mediator and lawyer, has mediated divorces for 20 years. She believes in empowering the parties to reach their own resolution.