“I don’t care who I live with. I love you both. Please don’t make me choose–just tell me.”
Divorce is a traumatic time for everyone. The divorce attorney’s goal is to help clients get through this process with the least amount of emotional damage to them and to their children. Unfortunately, we have observed too many parents that speak and act before thinking about the consequences of their actions. The children become victims, with lifelong pain. Help your children survive.
- Don’t make y our child choose between parents . When you have been hurt by your spouse, it is difficult not to badmouth him. However, the result is that children feel that they have to choose between the two of you. Your children need stability in their lives and , in all likelihood, they do not see your spouse in the same light as you do. If you speak ill of their father, it will shatter the foundation they have known. This is unfair to the children.
- Don’t mix up your issues and your children’s . Don’t assume that just because she is a bad wife, she is a bad mother. Your child is entitled to a relationship with both parents.
- Listen to your spouse’s point of view . You still have children to raise with your soon to be ex. Don’t let your children be a casualty of your divorce. Try to agree on rules, routines, driving, homework, curfews, and other expectations that you would have had if you were still together. Even if your spouse does not communicate well with you, you need to continue to communicate information to your soon to be ex.
- Be flexible with the children’s time . Make sure you allow significant contact with the other parent. If it is not his “time” don’t deny the kids the right to go to a baseball game with him or to his mother’s funeral. Maybe your daughter needs help from Mom at prom time. And maybe your son needs Dad to help with polishing up his basketball skills. Denying your children time will only cause depressed, angry and resentful children. The children will eventually resent you for not supporting their relationship with their other parent.
- Don’t use your children as messengers . When you do this, they will experience the anger from the other parent. Chances are they will see the response, even if it is subtly negative, from the other parent and it will only hurt them. Your goal should be to keep the children in a neutral place and not in between you and your spouse.
- Don’t fall prey to your children’s manipulation . It is very common for children to take sides or for them to get angry at one parent or the other. If a child gets mad at Dad for rules and restrictions, the child will soon get mad at the rules at your house. Children frequently use their parents’ anger to get what they want from their parents. It is common for the children to say bad things about Mom when with Dad and bad things about Dad when with Mom. This fuels the fire between the parents and gives the children control.
- Be careful what you say . Make sure the children are not within earshot when you are talking to your friends and family about your spouse. Children are smart and they know when you are upset. We can never shield them from all of the pain of a divorce but we can protect them from some of it. They too are coping with their own feelings of anger and loss. Don’t make them deal with yours also.
- Don’t introduce your children to a new partner until you are really sure that it is serious . They need time to adjust. If this new partner is the cause of the breakup this will surely cause bad feelings. And don’t think the children don’t know.
- Think twice before having a judge decide your case . When you put the decision about custody of your children in the hands of the court, you are asking a stranger who does not know, much less love, your children to make decisions about their future
- Consider counseling for your children . Children who are going through a divorce have many feelings– just as you do. Along with the turmoil they experience due to the break up of their family unit, children often feel alienated from their peers and believe they are “different” somehow. It is imperative that children have a “safe” place to explore and talk about their feelings. Consider whether your children would benefit from counseling, either individually or in a group setting such as Kids in the Middle. Counseling can be an invaluable resource to families going through divorce.
About The Author
Alisse C. Camazine of Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal, P.C.