Of all the marital assets involved in a divorce, children are the most valuable and priceless. As a rule, both parents want the best for their children; however, that desire can easily get lost in the bitterness and anger they feel toward each other. While there may be reasons for the acrimony, there are actions parents can take to ease the trauma children of divorce go through.
- When parents are unable to communicate with each other, they all-too-frequently make children the go-between messenger, as in, “Tell your mother ….” This puts the child in the middle of the parents and can force them to choose sides. Remember who is the adult in the situation.
- The child is not the parent’s messenger, and he or she should also not be the parent’s counselor. Parents are doing their children a great disservice when they discuss their negative feelings about their ex with their children. Never forget that the ex is still the children’s parent. It is also never a good idea to question the children about the ex’s activities and who he or she is dating. A simple, “Did you have fun over the weekend,” will suffice.
- A divorce can leave parents in a perpetual state of anger. There may be reasons for that, but those should not involve the children. Bad-mouthing an ex in front of the children can make children doubt the other parent, and this can affect their long-term relationship. Keep in mind they overhear your phone conversations and will manage a peek at your text and emails. Keep it civil.
- Ensure that family and friends aren’t bad-mouthing the ex, either. Make it clear to siblings and neighbors that questions such as, “What did the bum do this time?” are unacceptable in front of the kids.
- Finances can be difficult for everyone following a divorce, but the problem should not involve the children. Someone paying child support should not be complaining about the “burden” to his or her children. A parent on the receiving end of child support should not involve the children when payments are late or haphazard. The issue of finances should be kept where it belongs – between the adults.
- The parents probably divorced because there was an abundance of issues on which they did not agree. Why would it come as a surprise that parents continue to disagree with some of the ex’s behavior? However, they are no longer married, so there is no need to make an issue out of everything. Some things may be non-negotiable, but parents can let the small stuff go … it no longer matters. The ex may have fed the kids too many sweets – heap on an extra helping of vegetables and let it go. You didn’t divorce the ex because he or she was perfect.
- Divorced parents need to keep in mind that children almost always know when the parents are acting badly. This makes the children uncomfortable, and those bad memories will linger for a long time. Perhaps forever. Children thrive when parents, even divorced ones, behave at their personal best.
- Most parents feel guilty following a divorce and may overindulge the children to make up for the trauma. They can end up buying them too many things or permitting unacceptable behavior because they no longer feel comfortable setting boundaries. A special treat now and then is fine, but once the children learn they can get anything they want by playing on the parents’ guilt, they will come to expect special privileges and act out when they don’t receive them.
- Do not make the children choose which parent they want to stay with. Teenagers may have an opinion or preference, but younger children should not be forced to choose between Mom and Dad. Instead, make it clear that regardless of the divorce, both of you still love them and want what is best for them. When the children witness cooperation between both parents, it will go far in easing their fears and anxieties.
Few things are more challenging than co-parenting. Mistakes will happen. No parent is perfect, nor should he or she be expected to be. Divorce can easily bring out the worst in us. Parents should be honest and acknowledge when things go wrong. Apologize to the children and explain that you simply had a bad moment. And then, make every effort not to repeat the mistake.
The legal process can get difficult, which is why we always recommend that you seek the assistance of counsel; or at least have a consultation. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.
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