You’re devastated by the ending of your marriage and losing a partner in life. Your kids are the most important thing in your world and you want more than anything to protect them from the harmful effects of their parents’ divorce. It’s just you and them creating a new life together. Right?
But you’re hurt, disappointed, and angry and maybe you were left for someone else or caught totally off-guard or struggling financially or just unsure of who you are anymore other than a mom (or dad). It’s really hard having to deal with all the emotion and strain of getting a divorce and still be a great parent. I know, I’ve been through it.
In our weakness and frustration, we may succumb to using our kids during a divorce to lash out at our spouse or shore us up when we’re feeling low. After all, you say to yourself, it was all or mostly his (her) fault that you’re splitting up, anyway, so surely s/he should pay for what s/he’s done. And our children will clearly see that we are The Good Parent.
You may or may not be conscious of doing these, but here are five things to keep doing if you want your kids to move through life permanently scarred from your divorce:
- Trash your (ex-) spouse to your children and anyone else who will listen. You’re the victim and you want everyone to know that it wasn’t your fault and that you’re The Perfect Parent.
You’ll eventually be seen as the emotionally weak and bitter one. Your friends and family may initially listen and be sympathetic but that won’t last long. See a divorce coach or therapist for the support you need and save your friendships.
- Have the kids deliver messages to your spouse regarding visitation, custody, and financial issues. It’ll sting him (or her) a bit more that way.
Someday your kids will pity and resent you for putting them in the middle. There are far more effective ways to communicate with your (ex-) spouse. Try Our Family Wizard.
- Prevent your children from spending time with their other parent. They’re the one who broke up the family, why should they get to spend happy time with their children?
No matter what your children’s ages, they just want to be kids and have two stable and protective parents who put their needs first. Try to see the positive aspects of their other parent. You’ll be a hero someday for protecting their relationship with dad (or mom) and if the other parent is really all that awful, they’ll come to see that for themselves.
- Allow your child(ren) to take on more housework to ease your burden. You’re stressed to the max and Junior really wants to help—it’s a win-win, right? Or maybe s/he wants to spend Friday nights home to play video games with you since you seem so lonely.
As tempting as it may be to rely on your mature child(ren), s/he will suffer in the long-term for taking on more responsibility than was appropriate for her (his) age. A childhood misspent can never be recovered.
- Forget to tell your kids how much they are loved and that the divorce is not their fault.
As irrational as it may seem, kids just naturally think it’s their fault that dad (or mom) moved out. They need lots of reassurance that they’re great kids and loved by both parents.
Yes, you’re mad as hell, but your children love their other parent and, at least partly, define themselves by them. Do you want them to feel bad about half of who they are? If your answer is “yes” then be prepared for emotionally damaged children. They’ll have difficulty establishing and maintaining relationships forever more. They’ll put their own development on hold and never get to recover what they missed. Often the kids in a divorce end up being innocent victims.
Find other outlets to deal with your frustration, anger, and loneliness. Get the help you need to be the best parent you can be. Find a divorce coach or a therapist skilled in divorce transition and parenting. Your kids will thank you.
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