My Mom and Dad Are Divorcing: What about Me?
Despite the inevitable difficulties all face in a divorce, children should never be used or placed in the center of the crossfire. During the divorce process, and sometimes following the divorce process, it is not uncommon for a parent to become so wrapped up in anger, vengeance or simply being “right” that they forget the effect the whole process is having on the children.
What about your child’s psychological needs during the divorce? The child is living in the middle of the economic and emotion family roller coaster with Mom and Dad battling at each end, a battle they do not want and never requested. There is much guilt, fear and confusion experienced by the child because very little is stable or normal in his/her life during this time.
The caring parent should take time to focus on their child’s situation and be very sensitive to his/her needs. The child feels very alone and is very worried about his/her own future without mom or dad, regardless of fault issues.
Remember parents: these are children, not adults. The child did not make this problem situation, but is being forced to go through this divorce and has very little say in the matter. Do not burden your child with a situation over which they have little control. Children should not feel they have a responsibility for this divorce or its outcome. Also your children should not have to deal with adult issues. Children are rarely able to fully understand adult problems.
Below are some behaviors to avoid with your child and some suggestions to assist you with improving your communications with your child during the divorce process:
- Do not use children as messengers between “mom” and “dad.”
- Do not criticize your former spouse in the presence of your children because children realize they are part “mom” and part “dad.”
- Resist any temptation to allow your children to act as your caretaker. Children need to be allowed the freedom to be “children.” Taking on such responsibility at an early age degrades their self-esteem, feeds anger and hinders a child’s ability to relate to their peers.
- Absent abuse or danger, encourage your children to see your former spouse frequently. Promote a good relationship for the benefit of the child.
- Do not argue with your former spouse in the presence of the children. No matter what the situation, the child will feel torn between taking “mommy’s” side and “daddy’s” side.
- At every step during the divorce process, remind yourself that your children’s interests are paramount, even over your own.
- If you are the non-primary parent, timely pay your child support faithfully.
- If you are the primary parent and are not receiving child support, do not tell your children. This feeds a child’s sense of abandonment and erodes their stability.
- Remember that the Court’s view child support and child custody as two separate and distinct issues. Children do not understand whether “mommy” and/or “daddy” paid child support, but they do understand that “mommy” and/or “daddy” wants to see me.
- If at all possible, try not to uproot your children. When a family is falling apart, a child needs a stable home and school life to buffer the trauma.
- If you have an addiction problem, whether it is drugs, alcohol or any other affliction, seek help immediately. Such impairments inhibit your ability to reassure your children and give them the attention they need.
- If you are having difficulty dealing with issues relating to your former spouse, discuss such issues with mental health professionals and counselors.
- Reassure your children that they are loved and that they have no fault in the divorce.
Though these steps are not all-inclusive, they will assist you in dealing with the complex issues of a divorce and hopefully minimize the impact of the divorce process on the children.