Amidst Divorce Conflict, Parents Can Create a Secure, Co-Parenting Attachment

Amidst Divorce Conflict, Parents Can Create a Secure, Co-Parenting Attachment by Lauren BehrmanA safe, secure co-parenting relationship is ostensibly the most important and protective gift that parents who are divorcing can provide to their children. In lieu of being consumed by the logistics of divorce, it is important for parents to develop a more secure attachment to each other in their roles as parents.

Attachment theory, although initially created around infants and mothers, is applicable to adults in love relationships as well. Infant attachment is categorized as either secure or insecure (with anxious, avoidant, or disorganized subtypes). We carry our attachment pattern into our adult relationships; the level of emotional safety in a relationship is, in part, dependent on how the two patterns interact. For example, two adults who are insecurely attached or avoidant in their attachment will have trouble creating a safe emotional bond.

Regardless of what type of attachment already exists between the spouses (in marriage and divorce), it is important to intervene and help them become securely attached as parents. Two people who are mistrustful or incompatible in their marriage can still learn how to work together to provide feelings of predictability, consistency, and trust as parents to their children.

Particularly during the divorce process, it is common for parents to get caught up in the maneuvering and conflict of the divorce. Commonly, arguments stem from the question of which parent is right (i.e., Should the child be taking karate or ice skating?). Whether it’s competition, one-upmanship, or mistrust, most everything becomes a conflict—and children suffer as a result.

When parents commit to working on the co-parenting relationship, they examine the value of each other and strive to be their highest and most mature selves. Recognizing that each has value to the other, it is preferable to focus on the needs of the children and operate as a team. In so doing, parents push aside old hurts and territorial issues and recognize that their children benefit from parents who have a safe emotional connection to each other in their role as parents.

It is important to note that the creation of a secure attachment as parents does not necessarily erase the hurt or ensure forgiveness. It does, however, create an opportunity for spouses to forge a new attachment pattern to benefit the children—a process which may also be healing.

We invite you to discuss the co-parenting relationship with us in our upcoming workshops for professionals:

Please contact us for more information.

My Divorce Recovery

Lauren Behrman, Ph.D.

Jeffrey Zimmerman, Ph.D., ABPP