I think most divorcing parents would agree that the children are their number one priority. But, in the midst of a marital break-up – when it feels like your life is coming apart at the seams – keeping the children out of the middle of your dispute can be a real challenge. Your anger toward your partner may be justified. Your fear of the future may be real. But how do you keep those emotions from seeping into the minds of your children and coloring the way they view the world? Children whose parents are divorcing are frightened and anxious enough as it is, without having to be burdened by the complex emotions that their parents are going through – emotions that the children may not be mature enough to process in a healthy manner. Children need reassurance. It is certainly alright to let them know that you are sad, but they need to know that you will be able to deal with your sadness and that things will be ok. They need to know that their parents still love them and will be there for them.
Here are a few important “Do’s” and “Don’ts" for divorcing parents –
1. Don’t put down or badmouth the other parent to the children;
2. Don’t grill the children for information about the other parent;
3. Don’t use the children as messengers to deliver information to the other parent;
4. Don’t ask the children to choose between parents (“Who would you rather live with, me or your mother?”); and
5. Don’t make the children feel as though they are responsible for taking care of you.
1. Tell the children that the divorce is not their fault;
2. Let the children know that they are loved by both parents;
3. Talk to the children about the divorce in an age-appropriate way, being careful not to share information that would hurt, pressure, or cause them to fear;
4. Assure the children that although some things (like the living arrangement) may be changing, they can still count on their parents to take care of them and make important decisions for them; and
5. Let the children know that it is ok for them to love the other parent.
Children can survive a divorce and grow up to become well-adjusted, productive adults; or they could suffer long-term negative consequences. Much will depend upon your approach to parenting during this difficult time. Even in the midst of a divorce, your love and reassurance will go a long way in giving your children the gift of a happy childhood and a healthy life.
Gary Frank is an Arizona Family Law Attorney with over 30 years of experience in handling divorce, custody, and all other matters relating to children and families. If you are in need of a consultation, please contact us today by calling 602-383-3610; through our website: www.garyfranklaw.com; or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.