Going through a divorce is hard on everyone in the family – not just the parents. Children internalize emotional conflict much differently because their perspective is different. And, this is something that moms and dads often forget when caught up in the battles of a divorce.
Here are some guidelines on how parents should behave in order to better help children adjust to the transition of a divorce:
Don’t fight in front of the kids.
No matter how ticked off you may be because your ex-spouse neglected to tell you about a parent-teacher meeting or didn’t pay the tuition or whatever – don’t discuss it in front of your child. If you are unable to have a civil conversation with one another, consider the merits of parallel parenting which minimizes the amount of contact the parents have with each other.
Don’t put the children in the middle.
Communicate with one another directly – not through your child. This means not asking your child to give your ex-spouse a message in writing or verbally; especially one that may ruffle the other parent’s feathers. This puts your child in a very uncomfortable spot and may leave them feeling very guilty if the message is miscommunicated or not well received. Working out an effective co-parenting plan will help steer the conflict away from your child and enable you to behave with emotional integrity.
Don’t talk badly about the other parent.
Talking badly about your ex-spouse or their friends and family members in front of your child makes them feel very uneasy. The same is true when talking about money or child support in front of them. You want your child to enjoy your time together without feeling defensive or awkward. Remember the old adage, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
Don’t become a stranger.
It’s not uncommon for a parent to become somewhat disconnected in the aftermath of a divorce – especially if they are not the primary caregiver. However, your children need to know that you still love and care for them. Maintain contact with phone calls, emails, and letters or cards. Get to know them by learning about them. Who are their best friends, what’s their favorite color, what kind of music do they like? If you or your ex-spouse have relocated, make every effort to visit with your children as often as possible. When you don’t stay involved, then your children feel they are not important to you. Your children need to be able to rely on both of their parents in the years ahead.
Consider therapy for your child
No matter how hard you and your ex try to minimize the damage caused by divorce, your child may still suffer from some of the emotional upheaval surrounding it. Consider therapy for your child by enlisting the aid of a family therapist who can help them sort through their feelings and feel more positive about themselves.