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  • Autumn Quiles, LCSW

Parents in Two Houses

Many kids have parents who live in two houses. These are Separated Parents. Divorced Parents. Single Parents. Children have Big Feelings about their relationships with all of their parents. The parent who is There. The parent who is Not There. The "Good" Parent, "Bad" Parent and Gone Parent.

Many times, a child's feelings about Themselves grow from the feelings they have about their relationships with each and all of their parents. Thus, in helping a child to change and love themselves, I need the input, help and strengths from all the parents that are available to a child. Strengthening the Village of Grownups around a child is a critical part of my work. I help "good" parents be great and I help "bad" parents to also be great; I see the value in, and deeply respect, all parents.

This is the reason that I do not work with any child, unless all of their parents voluntarily agree that:

  1. I am the therapist they want to do the work and

  2. They will be available to me, and the child, as-needed to support the child's healing

This agreement is affirmed, in writing, prior to me beginning work with a child whose parents live in two houses.

Married parents are typically able to make this agreement easily; they are typically "on the same page" about this. However, parents in two different houses often disagree on things, including these conditions for my work.

When I get a call from a Parent who explains that there is an Other Parent in a different home, I ask that the Other Parent call me, so I can understand the Other Parent's point of view of the problem and affirm that the Other Parent agrees to my conditions. I explain that I will not schedule to begin work with a child, unless the Other Parent voluntarily agrees.

  • Sometimes, the Parent will tell me that they can force the Other Parent to agree, using legal means. Legally forcing an Other Parent to agree is very different from the Other Parent voluntarily agreeing to the work; I only work with parents who voluntarily agree.

  • Sometimes the Other Parent will adamantly disagree that their child needs therapy, or that I am the person they want to do therapy. I only work with parents who voluntarily agree.

  • Sometimes the Parent and Other Parent will initially agree to my conditions, but as the work progresses, one of the Parents will feel the work should stop. Any parent has the right to withdraw their voluntary consent for any reason, at any time. Though I would appreciate (for the child's sake) an opportunity to discuss this and make a plan to resolve concerns, I discontinue my work as soon as I know that a parent has withdrawn voluntary consent, as I only work with parents who voluntarily agree.

  • I do not allow my work with a child to be used in legal proceedings. I am not a custody evaluator. I respect the legal arrangements that Parents in Two Houses make and I help the child to adjust accordingly. I will not allow my work to be used to establish, or modify, those legal arrangements.

If all parents agree to my conditions, I can begin working with the child. I am very specific about how I communicate with Parents in Two Houses; I do my best to communicate with both parents at the same time (to minimize miscommunication) and I consider each home to be a very separate, and equally valuable, environment in which the child can thrive. I do not encourage Parent A to manage their home, or guide their child, in the same manner as Parent B; rather, I use the strengths of each parent, as-needed, to meet the needs of the child. I teach the child how to relate to each parent, and navigate each home, in a way that gets their needs met and increases their happiness in each place.

I have successfully supported many children whose parents live in two houses. Those parents have shared their appreciation for my transparency and my respect for their parenting priorities. Those parents have also expressed appreciation when their child is happier, in both houses.

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