Despite all the glitz and glamor, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie always seemed like very sensible parents to me. They kept their offspring out of the spotlight and seemed determined to give them the most normal upbringing possible.
However, I am amazed at what happened. They have been trapped in a lengthy and bitter lawsuit for nearly five years, with Brad Pitt finally getting joint custody of five of their six children this week (the eldest, Maddox, 19, is not subject to the custody order).
But now Angelina is appealing the verdict. Is all the fighting really worth it?
The ominous custody battle reminds me of so many warring parents I’ve seen over the years who, often thinking they are doing the best for their children, spend years and fortunes fighting each other in the courts.
Brad Pitt has been given joint custody of five of the six children he shares with Angelina Jolie, after years in a lengthy and bitter lawsuit. Pictured: Brad and Angelina
The parents lick the wounds of their failed relationship and convince themselves that what they are doing is right.
Yet the emotional scars, insecurity, conflict, rifts, and split loyalty lead to lasting damage to their children.
As a doctor, I am tired of seeing children suffer the emotional consequences of failed marriages, messy divorces, and belligerent parents.
Occasionally, I have worked for the past 15 years in an emergency room in the fields of mental health and child psychiatry. So I have seen the impact of affairs and bitter marital troubles countless times: young children and teenagers with emotional and behavioral problems, with eating disorders, with unexplained physical illnesses that are in fact manifestations of emotional distress.
And those are just the worst cases.
Talk to any teacher and they will tell you about the small, insidious damage done that never makes it to the doctor’s waiting room.
I should say from the outset that I fully accept that marriages fail.
In the UK, about 42 percent of marriages end in divorce.
People change and so do relationships – and it’s just a fact that sometimes things don’t turn out the way couples hoped they would. There is nothing to be gained by staying in a loveless marriage.
There is no doubt that for the mental health of many children, it is preferable for their parents to divorce and live amicably separate lives rather than stay together and subject everyone, including the children, to a terrible, troubled family life.
Dr Max Pemberton (pictured) said his blood is boiling that well-meaning moms and dads don’t understand that expensive purchases for their kids don’t matter if their family life isn’t stable
Still, the chances of harm to children in bitter divorces and custody battles are considerable.
Research shows that the feeling of instability that children experience at home triples the risk of emotional distress, compared to children from a stable background.
Time and again I have seen parents – adult adults seeking revenge – ignore the effects of the chaos they create. I’m not talking about negligent parents here. It boils my blood that well-meaning moms and dads, who apparently care so much about their kids that they buy them the latest gadgets and expensive trainers, give them only the best organic food and send them away for extra classes, fail to understand that this does not matter at all if their family life is not stable.
Children are much more resilient than we think. They can withstand many things.
Research has shown time and again that all a child really needs to develop normally is stability. It does not matter what the composition of the family is or what material possessions they have, provided that family life is stable.
Gordon Ramsay’s daughter, Holly, has spoken out about having PTSD after she was sexually assaulted at the age of 18. Too often the punishments given to perpetrators are pathetic. They don’t take into account the deep psychological damage an attack can cause.
A parent’s main job is to provide that sense of security.
It’s so simple, yet people seem so hard to understand. I understand the anger and anger they feel towards an ex-partner. I understand that an ex can come across as cruel, heartless, indifferent, or even bad to them.
Any concession or compromise makes it seem like you are giving the other a victory. It stinks of dishonesty and injustice. You feel disadvantaged and hurt, and the desire to feel justified and victorious can often be overwhelming.
Custody battles often revolve around not seeing that someone can be a bad partner – even a terrible one – and still be a good parent.
They may not care about their ex-wife or ex-husband, they may even despise them, they may have done stupid, hurtful, or heartless things to them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care about their children.
Ask a lawyer and they will tell you that most custody battles are basically about one parent punishing another. The children, blinking, confused and alone, are reduced to pawns in their parents’ emotional game of chess.
If only parents understood that in so many of these bitter splits, there are never real winners – and the biggest losers are almost always the kids.
Reward yourself like Joan
Dr. Max said he often encourages his patients to treat themselves to something to remind them that they are doing their best. Pictured: Joan Collins
I like Joan Collins. Stubborn, self-assured but always with a self-mockery. And I am now an even bigger fan after hearing this week that she buys herself jewelry as a reward. “I think more women should – you don’t have to wait for men,” Joan explained ahead of an auction of her jewelry next month. Treating ourselves is something I often encourage my patients to do. Whatever it is, we all deserve a treat to remind ourselves that we’re doing our best. I did this myself – after every book I wrote, I bought a piece of art to reward myself for the hard work and remind me that, despite convincing myself, I would never finish the manuscript on time. it. It’s a great motivation.
- Michael Caine has given up alcohol to have more time with his grandchildren. The actor, 88, said that being a grandfather has ‘given him new life’ and so he has given up on the drink in an attempt to ‘live a little longer’. What a smart way to look at things. Rather than telling yourself that you are denying yourself, it is much better to rephrase this thinking as giving yourself something else. Most of us have an inner saboteur that kicks in when we try to abstain from something we like. So at the first sign of trouble or in response to stress, our good intentions go out the window. The easiest way to challenge this is to turn it upside down: stop thinking about denying yourself and focus on how it will improve your life.
Dr. Max prescribes …
Dr Max said swimming in a lake or pond is great exercise and makes you feel closer to nature (file image)
There is something exciting about swimming in a lake or pond. If you have any underlying health issues, check with your primary care physician first, but it’s great exercise and will make you feel closer to nature. If you’re looking for a place to try it, Fritton Lake is a family-run retreat set in 1,000 acres of woodland on the Norfolk-Suffolk border. Frittonlake.co.uk