As with most things in life, breakups get more complicated as we become adults. Divorce is hard, especially when there are children involved. They are innocent bystanders with everything to lose. Overcoming the stress of the situation and putting your child’s wellbeing first can be a real challenge.
Bad-mouthing and undermining your ex is not an option – at least not when your children are around. During a divorce some parents are guilty of telling children to keep secrets or not allowing them to communicate with the other parent. You may be tempted to lean on your children as if they were adults or relax the rules. These are irresponsible behaviors.
Children whose parents put them in the middle of this type of controversy often have problems with divided loyalties, are unable to confide in a parent or have trouble concentrating in school. Putting too much responsibility on a child’s shoulders can rob them of a carefree childhood, while lack of stability and guidance gives way to insecurity and confusion. All too often children in these situations need counseling to repair the damage created.
It is important to take steps to safeguard your children from the “ugly” side of the divorce. To do this, I suggest that you:
- Always make your children priority number one.
- Do not let your child hear you speak negatively or make accusations about the other parent.
- Do not force your child to choose sides or act as a messenger between the two of you.
- Argue or discuss child support issues out of the presence of your child, do not pump your child for information about your ex, or use him as a pawn to hurt the other parent.
- If you can discipline yourselves to interact responsibly, it will ease the adjustment period and minimize the negative long-term effects divorce has on your children. These guidelines may test your will power, but when you think of the alternatives the choice is clear.
Remember, protecting your children does not mean you aren’t allowed to grieve the breakup or that you always have to be strong. Your friends and family are there to support you. A counselor is also a great resource to help make the most of your new family situation.
For questions about divorce or child custody and access, please contact Linda Sorg Ostovitz, at (301) 575-0381 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation or mediation.
The Mayo Clinic, Children and divorce: Helping kids after a breakup. (Accessed June 22, 2011)
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