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about this other person whom they may never have met but who has had such an extraordinarily powerful effect on their lives. It is not surprising that the children of divorced parents are so often characterized as having unusual skills of tact arid diplomacy. While such virtues can safely be encouraged – tactfulness is, after all, learning to put the feelings of others first – it is not good for either parents or children, if the children are asked to tell deliberate lies to protect one of their parents. There is a world of difference between a father’s gently indicating to his children that their mother might not want to hear very many details about his second wife’s new baby and his asking his children to deny that they have met his girlfriend and to edit their stories accordingly.
It is not only children who face anxieties about separation in the aftermath of a family break-up; many parents live with the fear, real or imagined, that their ex-partner will not return the children at the end of an access visit. Such fears, fuelled by the increasing number of tug-of-love’ stories in the newspapers, sometimes strengthen a custodial parent’s desire to sabotage the arrangements for access made by the courts. It is better to face such anxieties openly, even if it means confronting your ex-partner with them, rather than pushing them to the back of your mind.