Tanisha Williams of US Weekly magazine interviews Patrick Wanis PhD about Kate & Jon Gosselin’s divorce and its potential effect on their eight children.
Tanisha: What do you see as the effects on the children given Jon’s behavior of slamming and being vengeful against his wife?
Patrick Wanis PhD: Jon’s overall behavior of slamming and being vengeful against his wife is extremely damaging for his children. One of the first things that he’s doing is he’s and we’re assuming, of course, that his two eldest children are going to hear about this one way or another, even if they don’t see the interviews on TV, they’ll hear about it from friends at school. The first thing that it does is teach the children hatred and that’s obviously not good. The second thing is it starts to create rifts. The third thing that it does is it starts to push children to make a choice; to choose between mother or father. So it forces their hand to ask, to whom am I going to be loyal, to Mum or to Dad? Children often idolize their parents, so the worst thing that any parent can do is to slam, to put down, to condemn, to criticize or judge the other parent in front of the children because it starts to chip away and damage the image that the children have of their mother or father. The other thing’s that really, really bad is when the children see that there’s a lack of love between their parents; that’s very damaging and very harmful for the children.
Tanisha: Do you think the children will need counseling or therapy because of their appearance on the TV show?
Patrick Wanis PhD: Given what the children have been experiencing, right from the very beginning with this TV show and the fact that they have so many siblings, of course they’ll need some sort of counseling, some sort of therapy, some sort of guidance and some sort of help. The first challenge that any child in a very, very large family has is to get the attention of their parents. So that’s the first challenge you have and when you have seven siblings, you’re often fighting to get attention of your mother and your father. So that’s number one. Number two; you have the complications of being on a television show and being constantly filmed. And no matter what any producer tells you such as “oh we’re looking after the children, we’re being very careful, etc, etc,” I don’t think anyone appreciates that these children are aware of what’s going on. They sense and feel that there are people around them, there’s people invading their space and this camera is filming them. Now, the youngest child may possibly not say, “oh this camera’s filming me” but it invades their space. It prevents them from being free; it’s an intrusion.
Tanisha: Are you saying the children can’t be themselves?
Patrick Wanis PhD: I don’t think the key challenge here is that the children can’t be themselves. I think it’s simply an intrusion when you know that this person’s not part of the family. You know that this person’s not here to look after me. You know that I can’t interact with this person; they’re there but I don’t why they’re there. And even for the older ones, the eight or nine-year-olds, it still prevents them from being fully free to express their feelings and emotions. It adds a lot of extra pressure and stress on the children. So the first thing we have is the fact that there are all these siblings which makes it hard for each child to get the amount of attention, love and recognition that they want and long for. The second thing is that they’re constantly under the camera which adds all sorts of stress – physical and emotional stress. Then the third thing we have is the fighting between mother and father which then becomes manifest in the form of a lack of love and then it goes further into horrible, verbal expressions or what I call violent verbal expressions. “Verbal violence” is never good for children; even if the parents are simply saying it to each other; even if the children are in the other room and they’re hearing it, it’s still damaging for the children.
Tanisha: What could Jon and Kate do for the children?
The ultimate answer for the children would be if Kate and Jon were able to repair their marriage and to start to express love to each other. Now that’s the dream, that’s the ideal. That’s probably not going to happen because they are divorced, both of them have become very set in their ways and both of them have decided to not just take the high road but to say, you know what, I’m right and she’s wrong or I’m right and he’s wrong. Anytime one person says the other person, the other partner is 100% at fault, then you know that that person is living in la-la land. There’s always more than one person at fault. It takes two to create the relationship. So ultimately, the very best thing they could do is to express love to each other. That’s not going to happen. We know they’re going to go their separate ways with bitterness. We know that Jon has a girlfriend. So now from what I understand, Jon is probably going to take the eldest children and Kate is going to stay with the youngest. Now, there’s an advantage to that and there’s a disadvantage to that. The best they can do for the children right now, if Jon takes the eldest and Kate takes the youngest, is to express love to each other, express respect to each other, respect each other as being equal parents of their children, stop saying anything negative things about each other, stop forcing children to take sides, stop trying to make the children hate the other person and stop trying to use the children as pawns against the other person.
Is there anything else the parents can do directly to the children to empower them?
Patrick Wanis PhD: Well the best counseling that the children could receive (age-appropriate counseling) is probably for the eldest children, which are I think around eight or nine, to be able to say to them Mummy and Daddy aren’t getting along, Mummy and Daddy are going to live separately but Mummy and Daddy still love you! This is really important: Mummy and Daddy still love you just as much as if we were living together and, here’s one thing you probably don’t often hear, Tanisha, You, the children are not to blame. It’s not your fault that Mummy and Daddy are leaving; you have nothing to do with this. And we still love and we’ll still be there for yo no matter what.
It’s critical to understand the dynamic that occurs for most children of divorced parents: at a deeper subconscious level the children often blame themselves because what the children conclude and say in really simple terms is, Mummy and Daddy are fighting, maybe it’s my fault. Mummy and Daddy don’t like each other, maybe they don’t like me. Mummy and Daddy are divorcing and separating, maybe we did something wrong.
This is what I deal with, all the time, with adult clients who grew up in homes where their parents divorced. At a deep level they think maybe there’s something wrong with me and that’s why Mum walked out, or, maybe Mum walked out on me or maybe Dad walked out on me. So the children don’t see it as oh these are adults who aren’t getting along and they’re making a choice because they’re not happy with each other. The children think it must be my fault. I must be to blame. Maybe I’m unlovable. So it’s critical for the children’s mental and emotional well being and development that from the earliest age possible that both Jon and Kate tell their children: it’s not your fault, there’s nothing wrong with you, you’re lovable, we’ll still love you just as much as ever before. We’re just going to be living in separate places and we’re going to do our best so that you can see your brothers and sisters as often as possible.
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Anointed “The Woman Expert” by WGN Chicago, Patrick Wanis PhD is a renowned Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert who developed SRTT therapy (Subconscious Rapid Transformation Technique) and is teaching it to other practitioners. Wanis’ clientele ranges from celebrities and CEOs to housewives and teenagers. CNN, BBC, FOX News, MSNBC & major news outlets worldwide consult Wanis for his expert insights and analysis on sexuality, human behavior and women’s issues. Wanis is the first person ever to do hypnotherapy on national TV – on the Montel Williams show.