Being there for our Children:

I want to share with you a recent experience with a family. A beautiful nine-year old girl came in for counseling, as she was separated from both her birth parents and the step-Mom she loved. Her mother was struggling with addictions, and her father was struggling with abuse issues. Her parents separated long ago. She had bonded nicely to her step-mother and loved the home they created, but then the father was removed from the home, and this child was forced to leave the home she loved. The uncertainty of what would become of her father hung over her heart.

What is important when working with children is to remember that many people can have a positive impact on a child’s life. A teacher, a step-parent, a coach, or extended family members, are just a few examples. In this situation the girl’s maternal grandmother and aunt created a positive home for this child. We worked together to empower the grandmother and aunt to encourage the mother to visit her child regularly under supervised visitation. We discussed how best to work towards healthy relationships for their granddaughter and niece, during a time of great disruption in this child’s life. It would be months before she could reunite with her step-family. The distinct possibility existed that this family would never be reunited.

As many of us are dealing with changing family structures, we must remember to put the “best interests of the children first." In order to bring structure to a child’s chaotic life many of us need to grow up and remember the children. It is time to learn how to be civil to one another, create healthy boundaries, and allow the children to have a relationship with all the adults in their life that love them.

What was beautiful with this grandmother and aunt, was their willingness to put aside their own history (or agenda) with other family members, and create a positive environment for their granddaughter and niece to love the adults in her life. Healthy boundaries were created, and the other adults were treated with respect and honor. We discussed how best to lower the usual drama level.

In my graduate program in Marriage and Family Therapy I interned with the Clackamas Country Family Court Service. We helped divorcing couples learn the guiding principle for becoming effective co-parents, which was to put the children first. Studies have shown endless conflicts between co-parents, or a parent disappearing after a divorce or break-up, created the greatest damage for our children. The best-adjusted children are those with parents who work together, without long-term unresolved conflict, to meet the on-going, age-appropriate needs of their children. Ironically, many of these parents learn as co-parents how to get along better then they ever did in their marriage, or former relationship. Effectively learning to co-parent for these parents meant growing up, and being the adults their children needed.

Maybe it still takes a “village to raise a child.”

It is time to put aside our own pain and struggle and receive the support we need to become the responsible adults in the lives of our children. Our pain and angst, our storm situations, need not beat upon our children’s lives, for surely over the years these pounding storms will deeply hurt our children.

As we parted after our last session I gave the grandmother, aunt, and daughter my business card. “Send me an e-mail. Please let me know how it goes for you.” I wanted to encourage these two women in their love for this girl, who would soon turn into a young woman. These women were getting the outside support they needed to provide a healing, nurturing, loving environment for a girl who would grow into a woman better prepared to handle whatever life storms will come her way.

Chaotic life situations, life storms, do not have to be damaging for children, if the adults become adults, and get the support they need to handle the storms of their lives. Your children’s future depends upon it!!!

Begin today to “move beyond the storm.”


Caroline Britton Gearing, MA, LMFT
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
503.244.4008 / 360.690.8400
“moving beyond the storm”


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