Divorce is often a traumatic event for everyone involved, including your children. If divorce is handled thoughtfully, children manage the change in circumstances well. But handling it badly can have terrible consequences for the mental health of your children. Here are five mistakes to avoid during your divorce:
- Bad mouthing the other parent. Despite your feels toward the other parent, they remain the other parent of your children. And your kids love you both. When you smear the other parent’s name, degrade his or her character and insult your ex in front of your children, it’s an emotional nightmare for them. They feel they need to defend the parent being berated. Sadly, that puts them in a double bind because by coming to one’s defense, they feel they’re taking sides and turning their back on the other. It also means that you are asking your children to deal with adult issues that they are not emotionally equipped to handle.Children need to love and be loved by both their parents and this ruins that ability. Children need to think highly of both their parents and not have bad thoughts of either of you. If you need to vent, vent to a friend, a parent or someone you trust.
- Misplaced resentment. Sometimes divorce can leave you feeling bitter. Those feelings you have towards your ex must not be transferred to your children. Perhaps your partner had very pronounced characteristics, like being super organised and tidy. You might have fought a lot about you being too messy or how you were always late. Now you find you have a child who has these same personality characteristics. It is tempting to allow your resentment toward your ex explode towards the child with the same characteristics. In fact, your child may even have some physical similarities to the other parent, so he or she may look and act like your ex, making it even more likely to trigger emotions.Take time to think about your triggers and remember that your child is the innocent party.
- Use Children As Pawn for Manipulation. If parents still want to wreak havoc on each other, using the children as pawns is very effective. That can take many forms, such as having children deliver messages to the other parent. Or maybe it is as simple as one-upmanship of gifts, exotic holidays or special outings, trying to manipulate a child’s affections. Parents may also use their parenting styles to upset their ex: feeding junk food to your child for the sole purpose of upsetting your granola-loving ex, for example.
One way of dealing with this is to communicate through a lawyer. Ultimately, you may need to seek help for your pain and anger so that you can live peaceably.
- Ruining Special Events. Children pine for the day their parents will see them sing in the choir, perform in the school play, make it to the state sports team or graduate from high school. Children want both their parents in attendance for their special milestones. Children are super sensitive to your facial expressions, tone and body language. Don’t buy into the tension – walk away, don’t take the bait, don’t lash out.
It may mean you will have to fake it till you make it. After all – it is just for an hour or so. You can do this for your kids!
- Letting Guilt Hijack Your Ability To Parent. Parents feel a terrible sense of guilt for breaking up the family. Even a parent who was very good at setting and enforcing appropriate limits and boundaries can suddenly feel an overwhelming need to show more love and leniency in his or her discipline.
It’s harder to crack down on bedtimes and keep on top of kids to ensure they get their chores done when you feel you need to apologize for the mess you’ve made of their lives. But stability, normality and routine is still important for kids.
Be gentle on yourself and know that you will regain your parenting strength overtime.
Divorce is often very difficult, but your kids will get through it if you remember that the divorce is only between you and your ex-spouse. We offer a free, 10-minute phone consultation so contact us today to talk to one of our friendly and experienced family lawyers.