Divorce is never pleasant or easy and it’s particularly tough when kids are involved. A traumatic and acrimonious divorce can leave an indelible mark on your child’s psyche forever. Here’s some invaluable advice for parents to make a difficult time easier on your child.
Create a positive relationship with your ex
Whatever happens, you must remain at least civil with your ex when your children are around. Display maturity and stay positive, even if times get rough.
Never discuss your ex with your kids
Children want to be loyal to both parents. Never confuse them or try to persuade them to take sides by bad-mouthing your ex in front of them. Children bond best with parents with whom they feel safe. If you are continually trashing your ex, your children will be reluctant to open up to you about the way they feel. If what you say is also inaccurate, your kids will work this out sooner or later and you’ve then lost their respect and trust.
Don’t use your child as a messenger
Never use your child as a messenger between you and your ex. The child ends up as ‘piggy in the middle’ which can make them feel uncomfortable and confused. Work out an amicable means of discussing things with your ex that leaves your child out of the equation.
Think of your former spouse as the mother/father of your child
Try not to think of your former spouse as your ex-wife or ex-husband. They are the mother or father of your child, and even though you are no longer together you still have a joint responsibility to be the best parents that your child can have.
Focus on your ex’s good points, not the bad. After all, there must have been plenty of good points that you fell in love with in the first place! See all the ways that they’re being a great parent, regardless of how you feel about them.
Never quiz your child about what your ex does
Don’t habitually quiz your child after visits to your ex about what he or she does. Their private life is none of your business, as long as what they do does not adversely affect your child. Again, as far as your child is concerned, it’s a trust issue. They must feel comfortable that they can come to you with any concerns they have, and continually grilling them about your ex will only cause them to clam up.
Don’t play mind games
Failing to show up when your child is expecting you or phoning at the last minute to cancel a visit just to spite your ex will backfire on you. Your child will only see that you let them down. They won’t understand why and will become resentful or fearful that you don’t care about them. These feelings will endure into the future and could easily damage the long-term relationship you have with your child.
Don’t discuss your ex with your new partner in front of your child
It’s possible that a new love interest may be insecure. They might bad-mouth your ex in front of your child and try to create a situation of conflict. It’s really important that you nip this in the bud and make it clear to your new love interest that discussing your ex while your child is present is a definite no-no.
Divorce is never easy and taking out your anger and hurt on your ex will surely damage your child. Although it’s not easy, you must remain calm and in control whenever your child is around. Children often feel bewildered and frightened when their parents separate, and it’s your responsibility to manage this in the best way that you can.
If you feel you need to talk to someone about your divorce and the effect it’s having on your kids, Relate is a good place to start.
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