For more than 30 years, clinical child psychologist Dr. Edward Farber has been working with families going through separation and divorce, witnessing the hurt from what he calls the “domestic war zones” children live under even after their parents have separated.
Farber said, “I shift the focus away from hatred and hostility for the ex, toward what they need to do for the growth and development of the child. We no longer talk about what he or she did to me and talk about what I want for my child.” Farber promotes a business-model approach, where emotion is removed and the two partners work together to produce the best possible product, their children.
Removing the hostility from the equation is especially relevant within the Jewish community. Farber said, “The concept of hatred is not one that Jewish people accept culturally. We allow for divorce…but the concept of hatred is something we have to eliminate.”
During his early years working at then-Columbus Children’s Hospital, Farber said, “I was seeing the depression, the anger, the school failure, the loss of energy as a result of this post-separation conflict.” Farber also found that the wounds of kids dealing with divorce could be as bad or worse as those of kids dealing with chronic illness, those who suffered sexual abuse or the death of a parent.
“I’d see kids with diabetes, kids in the burn unit, families with significant losses. I thought divorce was divorce and the kids would get up and go to school the next day and it wouldn’t be so damaging, and yet I found the reactions in these children to be similar to the physically traumatized children. The wounds of the physically scarred children would go away faster than those of the ones of the children going through a divorce situation.
While Farber said the majority of children whose parents divorce turn out okay—“they may have short-term hurt academically, socially, or behaviorally, but then they bounce back”—he said a substantial minority have a much more substantial impact. “What’s frightening is looking 10 years out when the children of divorce start having long-term relationships of their own. That’s when we see the sleeper effect.” He noted that these young adults in their 20s don’t succeed professionally as they might have, and have higher incidence of drug and alcohol abuse and criminal behavior.
Farber’s work with families and his recent book, Raising the Kid You Love with the Ex You Hate,(Greenleaf Book Group, 2013)focus on reducing conflict between the parents in order to protect the children. “I was finding things parents could do that would immunize children from the negative impacts of the divorce, factors that make a difference in how these children turn out.”
The difference between the kids who do okay in the long-run and those who do not comes down to these three factors, Farber said:
- They have a meaningful, clear, consistent relationship with their parents after separation and divorce.
- There is a lower level of conflict post-separation and divorce.
- They perceive that both parents are acting as parents at critical points in their lives regardless of the particular custodial arrangement.
“If all these factors are in place…parents are loading the deck so that the child will not be impacted long-term by the separation and divorce,” Farber said.
Farber, who currently resides in the Washington, D.C. area spent 11 years in Columbus. He earned his Ph.D at The Ohio State University and worked as the head of the psychology department at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Farber returns to Columbus October 29 as part of the Columbus Jewish Bookfair. He will speak at 7pm at the Jewish Community Center on College Ave.
Following Farber’s talk will be a panel discussion sponsored by Jewish Family Services. Judy Fisher MSW, LISW, a clinical social worker and divorce mediator, Amy Shevrin LISW-S, of Jewish Family Services, and Amanda Sminchak, PCC-S, from Nationwide Children’s Hospital will answer questions and offer advice on how to reduce conflict and protect your children’s well-being while co-parenting.
For more information about the program or to order tickets, contact Cheryl Dritz at (614) 559-6238 or firstname.lastname@example.org.