Divorce: Putting Your Kids in the Middle
When a couple divorces, the children often get caught in the middle. Visitations continue to put them in the middle, often every other week or holiday or during summer vacations. Kids love both of their parents, and to hear one parent bad-mouth the other actually makes children internalize the criticism, as if it were directed at them.
When parents split, the disagreements should be kept between the adults, not “dragging” the children in. In fact, if children hear one parent criticize the other, they often “rush to the rescue”, defending the other parent and denying any negatives. Children want to believe the best of their parents, and when one parent vocalizes his/her anger, it often serves the purpose to prolong the reality, as the child may fantasize or idolize the parent being criticized. Often the parent doing the criticizing will end up stimulating acting out behaviors by the child hearing the negative words, especially if the child acts on his/her defensiveness.
Things a parent should never say to children include the reasons for the divorce, the status of child support and even if it is or isn’t being paid, the other parent’s past infidelities, addictions, even comments or conversations with the other parent, the squabbles about custody or visitation, comments about extended family, and criticisms about the other parent’s current living arrangements. When parents talk, those conversations should be done in and kept private. Phone calls in front of the children should be avoided, as children become super-sensitive to the words and tone. To increase your children’s easy transition between parents, to aid in their healthy development of relationships, and to foster reciprocal interactions, parents should remain positive about the other parent.
Avoid asking about visits, avoid interrogating children upon return, and avoid any hurtful words. Pointing out the positive things the other parent does, inviting the children to be open-minded about the “other house”, and encouraging them to play and have fun while on visits will go a long way to strengthen the relationships between the child and both parents.
Divorce is not easy but parents should strive not to entangle their children. Every effort should be made to be civil, if not cordial, as the children watch and hear all interactions, using those for the blueprints for their future relationships.
Tags: don't put your children in the middle of your divorce, what to say and not say to your children in a divorce situation
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
Licensed Professional Counselor
Advanced Clinical HypnoTherapist
- Deb England began working part-time for Wholeness Healing Center in September 2004 and began full-time in May 2005. Deb practices primarily in the Broken Bow office and one day a week in the Grand Island office. Previously she had completed her practicum and internship at Morning Star Alliance, working in the Broken Bow and Grand Island offices.
LATEST ARTICLES BY Deb England
Sign up to receive the latest mental health tips and inspiration