The decision to divorce is usually stressful, even in cases where the spouses agree on some or all of the issues. When children are involved, stress levels are generally much higher. Most parents want the very best for their children. Unfortunately, the emotional tension involved in the separation process sometimes spills over to the kids.
Common Mistakes Parents Make During and after Divorce
According to one family and divorce expert, there are several common mistakes parents make with respect to their kids and divorce.
Using the child as a messenger. Experts stress the importance of the parents communicating directly with each other. Fortunately, modern technology makes it possible for parents to text and email if they have difficulty speaking face to face. However challenging it is to communicate, parents should not use their child as a go-between. This forces the child to choose sides and can drive a wedge between the child and one or both parents.
Venting frustration in front of the child. Children and teenagers are very perceptive, and they can easily pick up on a parent’s anxiety. Parents should avoid discussing the other parent in a negative light in front of their children.
Grilling the child about the other parent. It’s important for children to experience close bonds with both parents. When a child returns from spending time with the other parent, parents should take care to keep any questions general and lighthearted.
On the other hand, it’s also important for parents to stay attuned to their child’s feelings about frustrations or negative circumstances occurring in the other parent’s home.
Family and divorce expert Gary Neuman suggests asking open-ended questions that allow a child to expand on what they are feeling. For example, a child may be struggling to adjust to a new stepparent or dealing with sadness about the divorce. Parents should not ignore these emotions.
Furthermore, parents should not ignore the child’s relationship with the other parent. Staying silent about the other parent or refusing to acknowledge the child’s relationship with the other parent can cause the child serious emotional and psychological damage.