When you’re in the process of divorcing, the primary focus may be on you and your soon to be ex, rather than on your kids, particularly if you are both working with divorce attorneys. You may feel that you are both being encouraged to constantly strategize your next steps in order to gain the coveted upper hand. In what may feel like an extended chess game, kids may find themselves on the losing end. Because of this, it’s important to set forth and adhere to guidelines for ensuring the innocent victims of divorce are protected, and emerge feeling safe and loved.
Your son or daughter: they are not…
1. Your child is not your marriage therapist. While that may seem intuitive, parents may look to their children as a sounding board or confident, even seeking advice. Don’t fall into this trap. Instead, shelter your kids as much as possible from the details of your divorce while also reassuring them of your love and support for them.
2. Your child is not a carrier pigeon. Using your child as a go between to give messages or payments to your spouse is strongly discouraged. Your child is not your messenger service. Speak to your spouse directly and avoid creating situations in which your child finds himself / herself stuck in the middle.
3. Your child is not your private detective. If you’re curious about who was over at your house when your child was there, or what might have been said about you, don’t ask your child. This again crosses the line. Your son our daughter should never feel like they’ve been put in a position of a double agent.
Your son or daughter: what they are more likely to be…
1. Insecure at times. It’s important to reassure your child that both mom and dad love them and will always is there for them. Although you and your spouse may not be on the best of terms, your child needs to feel that both of you still love and care deeply for them. Also, make an extra effort to catch your kids doing something good – and acknowledge it.
2. Surprisingly accurate in their recall. While they may have imperfect memories about their homework, they will remember every promise their parents made. It is so easy to promise it all to your child, but know that your child is keeping mental notes. He or she has recorded every promise kept and broken. The broken promises will add to the hurt and confusion he or she is already feeling. If you make a promise, keep it.
3. Excellent time keepers. There is a building uneasiness for a child when a parent keeps them waiting. Treat a meeting with your child with the same importance as a meeting with the president of a company (although your child is much more important!). If you’ve arranged for a 2pm meeting, that’s when you need to arrive. Your child will keenly recall negative feelings and what caused them during this emotional period. Don’t manufacture more stress. Be on time.
4. Assessors of consistency. Have an established and consistent set rules in both households. Hang them on the fridge in both homes. Don’t create room for kids to argue that “Dad lets me do this” or “Mom let’s me do that.” Instead, just introduce a consistent approach in both households with rules that are followed by all. If your child understands that expectations are the same, you will not only alleviate the divide and conquer approach that kids tend to test out, but also there will be a much greater atmosphere of stability.
5. Conflict averse. Never fight in front of the kids. Fighting in front of the kids is scary. Kids tend to feel that they are at the center of the friction and the source of your unhappiness. If there is a lead-up to an argument, stop and take a breath, and either defer the discussion or take it away from the kids so that they don’t hear or feel it. Always make them feel safe and secure
These are just some of the do’s and don’ts. Feel free to send me any questions you might have related to this topic and I will be happy to respond directly to you.