Children are the innocent victims of divorce. They don’t ask for it, they don’t cause it, but their living conditions are often disrupted by it. Here are some ways you, as a parent, can make it easier for them:
1. Divorce is Not Their Fault:
Most Kids will internalize the conflict in your relationship or act up to divert attention away from from it. They need to be reassured that you will both love them and continue to be their parents even when you’re living apart. Remind them that the divorce isn’t because of anything they’ve done wrong and you will never divorce them.
2. Communicate Appropriately:
Remember that you’re the adult and they’re the child. It’s tempting to use them as confidantes, especially when there are no other adults in the home. Unfortunately, this creates parentified children, who worry unnecessarily and feel burdened by your problems. If your partner had an affair, for example, an 8 year old will not understand what that means and become anxious or upset. It’s more loving to just comfort them, and share your problems with friends, family or a therapist.
3. Avoid Bad-Mouthing Your Partner:
Avoid saying negative things about your ex in front of the kids. They are biologically related to the other parent, and if you paint them as a monster, the child runs the risk of seeing themselves that way too. By venting to the kids, you are not only putting your needs above theirs, but forcing them to take sides. Besides damaging their relationship with your spouse, it injures a their self esteem and makes them feel guilty for loving their other parent.
4. Speak Directly to Your Ex-spouse:
Do your best to communicate openly to your ex-spouse so that your children don’t become messengers. You should be able to discuss pick-up and drop-off times, custody arrangements and schedules directly with your ex, rather than relying on the kids to shoulder that responsibility.
Putting kids in the middle can be especially contentious when there are other partners involved. Pumping your kids for information about dad’s girlfriend or mom’s boyfriend, relegates them to the role of spy. It is not their place to provide you with that kind of information.
5. Co-parent Responsibly:
Let your ex know what rules you have put in place and what your expectations are for their support. For example, if you say no to a new bike because your child has gotten poor grades, be sure you explain that clearly so your ex can uphold your decision.
Children will try to manipulate their parents by playing one against the other. If your ex understands the reason that you have said no, they are more likely to comply. If the child merely communicates that mommy is mean, daddy could be tempted to buy the forbidden item just to be the good guy.
6. Look Towards the Future:
Remember that you were once in love with your ex, and regardless of how the marriage turned out, you will always be in each other’s lives. As long as you have kids together, there will be occasions to celebrate as well as to mourn. It is up to you whether the future graduations, weddings and grandchildren become reasons to celebrate, or bitter reminders of a painful divorce.
7. Model Healthy Relationships:
Kids do better with divorce if the parents maintain a cordial relationship in their presence. If you have anger or resentment towards you ex, now is the time to work it out with a therapist.
We all want our kids to experience healthy, loving relationships when they become adults. It wouldn’t be fair to taint that for them by constantly reminding them what a mistake your marriage was. Research has shown that kids of divorce do better in the long run if they have a good relationship with both parents.
8. Get Some Help:
Are you struggling with the aftermath of the end of a relationship? Are there children who are floundering and getting stuck in the middle? If you answered YES to either of these questions, I’m here to help.
I am a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in relationship issues. You can call me for a free 15 minute consultation at: 310-292-2538 or set up an appointment to come in.
For more information, go to my website at: http://www.sydellweiner.com. The future can be bright for everyone: you, your ex, and especially your children. Trust me, I’ve been there!