I recently had the opportunity to visit Switzerland. In between marveling at the mountain peaks, lush valleys, and charming architecture, I could not help but think of the country’s legendary neutrality—and how some of the children I know here at home could benefit from some neutrality in their lives.
Adults have many freedoms and a whole suite of rights that come with reaching the age of majority, but children are dependent upon adults to provide them with an emotionally safe place to grow up.
Especially children caught in the middle of a high-conflict divorce.
For them, it can feel like their parents are nations in some of the world’s most volatile regions, where nobody can remember “who started it.” Parents may even orchestrate covert missions against each other, using their children as blind operatives to undermine each other’s security. But children are very perceptive, and despite their parents’ intentions, many become caught in the crossfire and suffer as casualties.
They feel trapped, believing that no matter what they say or do, their words and actions can be used as ammunition for one side or the other when their only wish is to live in peace and not choose sides at all. They want to be able to have a full, loving relationship with one parent without feeling disloyal to the other—but they have to tread carefully in an environment where landmines may be buried.
In my therapeutic work with such children, I seek to provide exactly that: a neutral place where there is no unspoken dialogue or undercurrent of hostility—where everything is as it seems and they are free to express love for both of their parents without any feelings of guilt. Where the din of war is finally inaudible.
Divorced or divorcing parents can do a great service to their children by investing in their own stability and functionality—to create a ‘Switzerland’ for the whole family.
I can provide that for an all-too-brief time each week, but the work we do during those sessions builds on itself. Learning how to create a neutral zone, even if a personal one, is a skill that can serve children well for the rest of their lives.
Have you ever caught your spouse and yourself behaving like belligerent nations? Maybe it’s time to tend to the wounded. Or sign a peace treaty. Contact us to find out how we can help get the process started.
My Divorce Recovery
Lauren Behrman, Ph.D.
Jeffrey Zimmerman, Ph.D., ABPP