Read on to learn the top 10 rules for protecting kids during a divorce.
Divorce can get nasty and a lot of times parents don’t consider the emotional toll it can take on the children. Below are some rules parents should keep in mind when going through a divorce.
1. Don’t Make the Child Choose a Side
Children instinctively love both their parents and being asked or expected to choose a side can be severely traumatic for a child. It’s natural for a child to want to please both parents so expecting them to be on one side or the other is harmful and cruel. Understand that a child has loyalty to both parents and the circumstances leading up to the divorce or custody battle rarely change that loyalty.
2. Don’t Expect the Child to be a Messenger
Don’t use your kids to deliver messages to the other parent, even if it is a simple reminder about soccer practice. That is placing a burden on the child when you should be able to effectively communicate with the other parent. You’re expecting a child to remember details and relay responses, which is a lot of pressure. If you can’t talk to the other parent yourself, how can you expect your child to do so?
3. No Fighting in Front of the Kids
Seeing or hearing parents argue is something that can be very difficult to cope with for a child. Children will also pick up on the negative or hurtful statements said in the heat of the moment and are not able to properly process such information. Don’t scream or yell or make snide remarks. The children are listening.
4. Don’t Say Bad Things About the Other Parent to the Kids
It hurts a child to hear bad comments about someone they love. Justifying such comments by saying it’s the truth doesn’t help the matter. It makes you look bad and it makes the child feel bad by hearing such negative things. Of course you need an outlet or a place to vent, but save the anger and vitriol for a dinner with your friends or a phone call to your mom when the kids are at dance practice. Conversation with your children should always be happy and focus on them, not on issues outside of their control.
5. Don’t Allow Friends or Family to Say Negative Things Either
Just because the nasty words aren’t coming out of your mouth doesn’t mean it’s okay either. Friends and family often want to stick up for a parent but allowing them to make negative statements has just as bad an impact as if you were saying it yourself. Let your friends and family know that under no circumstances are they to make negative comments in front of the kids.
6. Try to Put on a United Front for Activities
It’s important that both parents remain supportive during a pending litigation, even if they can’t stand the sight of one another. Kids will remember which parent didn’t go to the dance recital or which parent couldn’t show up for Thanksgiving dinner. It may be difficult or painful for you as a parent but you need to remember that these are the lasting memories a child will have and you want them to remember that both parents were always there for them.
7. Don’t Talk About Pending Litigation
Children don’t need to be privy to when a court date is or whose lawyer filed what paperwork. It’s distressing and harmful to know the specific details about your case. If you need to vent about how a hearing went, talk to a friend or family member. Children need to remain as blissfully unaware as possible about litigation.
8. Understand the Children Love the Other Parent
Nothing you say or do will change that, your actions just may cause the child to have intense guilt for a natural feeling. Accept it. Embrace it. Never make your child feel guilty for loving the other parent.
9. Keep Life as Normal as Possible
While you may be going through an intense and emotional time in your life, your child is still going through childhood. Don’t let a divorce cloud their happy childhood memories. Keep them enrolled in extracurricular activities, keep homework schedules the same and do everything possible to keep life as normal as it was prior to the divorce.
10. Treat the Kids like Kids
Many parents, after losing a partner, will begin to treat the children as close confidantes. This is not helpful to the parent or the child. You’re still the parent and need to keep the parent-child relationship defined. Your kids don’t need to know about your dating life, your money problems or what’s going on with your divorce. Young children aren’t equipped with the maturity or knowledge to have those types of conversations so save it for your friends.
Oftentimes a child won’t express emotions or show outward signs of distress during a divorce. It’s important for parents to keep the above rules in mind and do everything possible to maintain a safe and emotionally balanced environment for the children, even if the pending litigation gets nasty. Children should always come first.