September 4, 2019 by Ginger Gentile, Deputy Executive Director of the National Parents Organization
When parents who have limited or no contact with their children after divorce or separation become advocates for family court reform their emotions can influence their actions and messaging. Their motivation is to save their relationships with their own children and this blossoms into activism for all children. But this desperation can turn into frustration with society that turns a blind eye to the over 22 million adults in the US who report being alienated from their kids. That is why the entry of the ACODs (Adult Children of Divorce) into advocacy for shared parenting is so exciting; their trauma has passed and they are infusing new energy into the movement.
Having grown up with a parent erased from their lives or the stress of a high conflict custody battle clouding their childhood, ACODs have a visceral reaction to this issue. Instead of wanting to change a law or a statute, they want systemic change. Their focus is making sure parents reduce conflict and have the tools to do so--not through court orders but through mediation that works, collaborative law, mental health services, and a system that doesn’t pit parents against each other. Default Shared Parenting, which assumes that both parents will have equal access to their kids if both parents are fit, is a big part of this solution, but ACODs view it as part of a holistic approach.
The ACODs, who grew up immersed in the Silicon Valley ethos of disruption, want to move quickly. As one activist told me, “I want to solve this problem in five years so I can do something else with my life!”
Remember, millenials are older than you think, as the top age bracket was born in 1980. They are forming families of their own and overwhelmingly support shared parenting. Here are some key phrases to use when talking with them:
Justice - equality -fairness - modern - trauma prevention - both genders are equal - moms and dads should have equal responsibility - kids need to know their family heritage and cultural history - justice should be restorative and helpful, not punitive - access to justice should not depend on income.
ACODs can be turned off when parents focus on their own trauma. They want to be part of a movement that is focused on change and has clear goals. We at National Parents Organization are excited to welcome this group into our ranks and as allies to work together to ensure that kids have the right to love both parents equally.