The Parent Trap - Body + Soul, The Sunday Telegraph - May 2, 2004

Updated: Jun 27




Article written by Kristie Kellahan

Published in Body + Soul, The Sunday Telegraph May 2, 2004


They may not be the ones you dream about, but there's something to be learned from all parents - no matter who they are, says Kristie Kellahan.

Families. They can set you up for a lifetime of great relationships - or send you out into the world with more baggage than a Louis Vuitton showroom.


"Our relationships with our parents are the first and most formative connections we experience," says Amanda Ferguson, registered psychologist and author of Life Works: Rediscover Yourself & Transform Your Relationships (Harper Collins).


"The immediate environment we grow up in has a major effect on the way we develop a sense of identity, self-esteem, confidence and take on life."


We can all relate, but imagine if, on top of all that familial stress, you were also dealing with the pressure of being a star. It stands to reason that when it comes to famous families, things can get ugly.The great thing about that is that us regular folk can watch our favourite stars and their families and listen and learn. Oh all right - and sometimes have a bit of a chuckle as well.


The main players:

Bruce Willis, Demi More and their daughters, Rumer, Scout and Tallulah.

Their relationship:

The Willis-Moore clan is a model of how successfully families can move on from divorce. Since Demi and Bruce split in 1998, there's been no ugly custody battle over their daughters and no public spats. They appear to have done the impossible, moving through the pain of breaking up while remaining loving and attentive parents. Both have moved on to new, seemingly happy relationships with much younger partners - Demi has hooked up with Ashton Kutcher while Bruce is rumoured to be about to pop the question to former Baywatch babe, Brooke Burns. There's even talk of a double wedding!

What we can learn from them:

"The manner in which Bruce and Demi have handled their divorce sends a strong message to their kids that it is possible to get on with life after painful setbacks, and that it's OK to do it in your own individual way," says Ferguson.

"The goal for most divorcing couples is to get to a point of being civil so that they can continue to co-parent. Bruce and Demi managed to put their own feelings of loss or anger in perspective."

The bottom line:

Divorce can be tough, but it is possible to start over without sacrificing your role as a good parent.


The main players:

Nicole Kidman and her mum, Janelle Kidman

Their relationship:

Nicole makes no secret of the fact she can't get by without her mother's support, often appearing on the red carpet with her, especially since the end of her marriage to Tom Cruise. In the days immediately following her break-up, Nicole headed home to Sydney.

What we can learn from them:

"This is more of a traditional mother-daughter relationship, with Janelle a very hands-on parent who can be counted on in times of need," explains Ferguson. "They've had to learn to adapt to the intrusion into their private lives that has come from Nicole's fame. That they've retained a normal mother-daughter relationship is a credit to their emotional health."

The bottom line:

Parents or parental figures have valuable wisdom to impart on how to cope better with life's challenges.


The main players:

Russel Crowe and his son, Charles Spencer Crowe

Their relationship:

Charles Spencer Crowe is the first child for Russell Crowe and his wife, Danielle Spencer. Russell has reined in his partying ways, reportedly giving up alcohol, cigarettes and nights on the town to better support Danielle. It seems fatherhood is his best role yet.

What we can learn from them:

"Men tend to like to get stuff out of their systems before they settle down and become fathers," says Ferguson. "Russell had achieved a lot, travelled a lot and had rich life experiences. Now that he is committed to his role as a dad, he probably wants to pass on the good stuff to his son and heir. Fatherhood can be a terrific impetus for men to lift their game. If they have the experience of finally "getting what life's about", they may find they wish to hold themselves to a higher standard and pass on a good example to their offsprint." The bottom line:

We might not all be able to be great ballerinas or footy players, but with a bit of dedication, we can all be good parents.


The main players:

Kate Fischer and Pru Goward

Their relationship:

Actress Kate Fischer is a strong, authentic woman. She seems to have inherited some of her independent traits from her mother, Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward. The two enjoy a friendly, intimate relationship.

What can we learn from them:

"You can't get two careers much more diverse than an actress and a politician," says Ferguson. "These two seem to respect the fact they are women/people first, and mother and daughter second. I'd call this a modern relationship, where traditional roles may not have been so important."

The bottom line:

By respect of each other's life choices, it's possible to be friends with your parents.


The main players:

Prince Charles and his sons, Price William and Harry

Their relationship:

After the death of their mother Princess Diana in 1997, William and Harry managed the difficult transition from adolescence to young adulthood with seeming grace and dignity (bar the odd dabble with alcohol and pretty girls). This seems to be a credit to the ongoing parenting of Prince Charles.

What we can learn from them: "Prince Charles had to become more emotionally available after the boys' mother died. The fact that he has responded and risen to the occasion shows he is willing to do the work of love," says Ferguson

The bottom line:

People - parents and kids - can change and grow if they are willing to learn. Good things can come out of bad situations.


The main players:

Jennifer Aniston and her mum Nancy Aniston

Their relationship:

The history between the Friends mega-star and her actress mother is famously rocky. Jennifer has spoken of the pain of growing up the so-called ugly duckling daughter of beautiful actress Nancy. The pair has not spoken since 1996 after Nancy wrote her book, From Mother And Daughter To Friends: A Memoir (Prometheus Books), about their relationship.

What we can learn from them:

"Competing with your kids is not on," says Ferguson. "Kids have to compete out in the world: the last thing they need is to cop it from insecure parents as well. "After enduring such a major and public betrayal, it's not surprising that Jennifer has put up a wall to protect herself. When the parent doesn't know better, we need to know better. If a parent is so abusive that you cannot have a relationship in a manner that is constructive for you, then it's reasonable to end contact."

The bottom line:

Sometimes a strong boundary is necessary to protect your heart. Be honest about your relationships, and willing to see clearly what the other person can and can't offer. And remember, if you don't have a loving and available parent in your life, it is possible to have your needs met by substitute parent figures, a counsellor, or caring friends.



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