The most important you have as is raising your children to be happy, healthy individuals. When you are divorced this can become a greater challenge as you navigate your thoughts and feelings about your ex spouse. How you treat them and how you interact with them in front of and around your child has the power to support your children in their quest for wholeness or it can destroy them. Parents sometimes lose sight of this when they are in a high conflict divorce. The high conflict divorce causes animosity and anger that can carry on in the relationship and do serious damage to the children.
I was in court a few days ago and the Judge was sharing the horrors of parties who are in court continuously arguing over what’s best for their children. She told us a story of how she married a woman who told her that she didn’t want a traditional wedding her parents, who were divorced, would make it about them and cause her to be miserable on her special day. She said she had experienced holidays, vacations, and school and sporting events within the framework of arguments and recriminations.
Don’t do this to your kids!
Avoiding Common Pitfalls in Divorce: Bad-mouthing and Confidant Children
I see clients who claim to be the best parents in the world bad mouthing the opposing parent routinely in front of the children. Or making the child the confidante. That’s not in your child’s best interest. Don’t use the kids as a sounding board for what’s right or wrong with the other parent. Let the kids draw their own conclusion. Is Dad selfish and stingy? You don’t have to tell the children. If he really is these things, they will find out soon enough on their own. Is Mom lazy and good for nothing? Again, don’t talk to your children about their perceived wrongdoing. Also, caution relatives who “mean well” not to talk bad about the other parent either. It causes the children to feel they have to choose sides or even worse alienates them and damages the relationship between parent and child.
Protect Your Children from Unnecessary Stress
You have to think about how this will impact your children. Are you angry about unwillingness to swap visits so you can go out of town? Do not report to your kids, “We can’t go to Disney because your Dad won’t let you go”. Keep the disagreements between the parents. Likewise, do not talk about child support or money issues to the children. If you want to fight about money, that’s between the parents. Don’t send messages about money through the kids. For example, “Mom says you owe her money for my school fees”, or any variation on this.“You can’t have swimming lessons because Mom won’t pay her part.”
These kinds of things put enormous stress on children. They can feel guilty, or resentful and neither of these are productive emotions for your kids. Many years ago a Judge used to give his, “Shame on you” speech at the end of every court case. It was primarily a speech to advise the parents how to govern themselves with their children after the divorce. He said, “No matter what you think about the other parent, your chidren need to think that you believe they are the best parent out there.”