Divorce can be devastating to children, leaving them with fears and insecurities that last a lifetime. As a parent you can greatly reduce the suffering your offspring endure during this traumatic experience. All you need to do is prioritize their needs above your own, act like an adult, and be emotionally available to the little ones.
But, you know, if that sounds like too much work, and you’re OK paying therapy bills and hosting sullen Thanksgiving dinners for a couple of decades, here’s another way to handle things, with a tip of the hat to Dr. Phil.
DO the following:
- Undermine your child’s relationship with their other parent.
- Use your child as a pawn to get back at or hurt your ex.
- Use your child as a spy to gain information or influence your ex.
- Take out your anger with your ex on the kids.
- Constantly force your kid to choose sides when there’s a conflict
- Make family events as stressful as possible.
- Lean on your child for companionship and support because you’re hurt and lonely.
- Spoil your kids rotten out of guilt over the divorce.
- Suck your kids into volatile emotional situations they cannot control.
- Treat the children like adults and force them to deal with adult issues.
DON’T do this stuff:
- Make a plan with your ex that sets aside any differences you may have and focuses instead on meeting the needs of your children.
- Forbid your children to speak disrespectfully about the other parent.
- Come to reasonable agreements on how to handle such things as handing off the children for visitation and holidays.
- Set agreed-upon boundaries and behavioral guidelines for your kids so there’s consistency in their lives.
- Agree on the role extended family members will play and the access they’ll be granted while your child is in each other’s charge.
- Communicate actively with your ex about your child’s development.
- Recognize that children love to test situations and manipulate boundaries, especially if there’s something in it for them.
- Compare notes with your ex before blasting her over some kid-related snafu.
- Keep your ex informed about changes in your life situation so the child is never the first source of information.
- Commit to conducting yourself like a grown-up.
You realize, of course, that the above is all tongue-in-cheek. But the message is so very serious. If you’re facing divorce, protecting your kids’ hearts and minds must be the top priority. Set aside the hurt and anger – get help with that if necessary – and work with your ex-spouse to give the children as much security and stability as possible. Creating such an environment will benefit all of you, both now and in the future.