A gatekeeper parent is one who attempts to control their children’s time with the other parent. Typically, it is meant in a negative way. Such a parent may criticize the other parent’s parenting skills, set unrealistic standards for the other parent, or try to control all planning and scheduling of their child’s time and activities with the other parent. While this behavior is not unusual, it can cause significant damage to the relationship between the parents and between parents and children. Frequently, it also results in time and money spent in court.
Divorce is a stressful experience especially when children are involved. The more animosity between the parents over the marriage, the more likely that disputes will arise over child custody and parenting time. Even if parents are relatively cordial, they may experience insecurities and uncertainty over how each parent will relate separately to their children. This can also lead to gatekeeping and conflict. If parents cannot learn to deal with these feelings effectively, it will affect their children’s physical and mental well-being and their relationship with their parents.
An article on DivorcedMoms.com, discussed research on children and divorce. “[T]he two variables that had the most negative impact on children of divorce into adulthood were limiting their access to both parents and experiencing high conflict between their parents post-divorce.” Kids benefit from access to both parents, including having better grades and social skills, healthy emotional development, higher self-esteem, and fewer trust issues. Further, by committing to cooperative co-parenting, parents can reduce conflict post-divorce which also benefits children.
That’s why it is essential for parents to seek professional help especially if one or both is a gatekeeper parent. Mental health professionals can provide invaluable guidance. Even better, parents can utilize a collaborative process to resolve disputes during and post-divorce. In collaborative divorce, the parties have their own attorneys, but mental health professionals and child specialists are also included to facilitate discussions, provide advice and help settle conflicts.
The more parents argue, the more it hurts their children, and the more time and money parents will spend in court. The better way is to try to respect each other and find common ground with the assistance of skilled professionals.
If you are considering divorce or have ongoing conflicts post-divorce, contact me for a consultation today.