My husband and I have each been through a divorce. Our children are from our first marriages. I had what could be called a “good” divorce, while my husband ended up with a textbook case of horrific parental alienation syndrome, where he “lost” his daughter.
We, as parents, can help or hinder our child’s adjustment to divorce. We are called upon to deal appropriately with our kids’ difficult emotions and situations, at a time when we ourselves are at a low and very vulnerable point. This is certainly no easy task as we are going through our own negative, often hostile, and very painful feelings. But as the grown-ups, we must be aware of not infusing our own Stuff onto them. Children don’t need a double dose of toxicity.
There are some very basic rules or guidelines which we need to follow regardless of our feelings, for the well-being of our children.
I am putting forth a (partial) list of “Don’ts” stated in a positive, to-do manner.
Warning: Doing these can be harmful to your child.
- Bad-mouth the other parent.
- Bad mouth the other parent’s new significant other.
- Use your child as your confidante.
- Have your child in the room while discussing/fighting over money, legal, furnishing issues.
- Tie in money with your child’s relationship with the other parent.
- Tell your child how unhappy and lonely you will be when he/she goes with the other parent.
- Espouse the attitude that the other parent left “us”.
- Make the child feel responsible for the break-up.
- Create excuses so your child does not see the other parent.
- Disallow your child from expressing or having anything positive with the other parent.
Doing these things will surely hinder a child’s positive adjustment to divorce and will create tremendous ambivalence, inner turmoil and loyalty conflicts.
We must always be conscious of separating out our spousal from our parenting issues. Our children are the product of two people and are entitled to having both parents in their lives. (Obviously this precludes abuse where one parent must protect the child by keeping him/her away from the abusive parent.)
Goal: Rebuild our lives and our children’s lives in as healthy and well-adjusted manner as possible. Divorce requires a new road map. It’s new terrain. We must tread carefully and consciously, being aware of each step we take and the impact it will have on our children.
Recommended reading – Vicky Lansky’s “Divorce Book for Parents”
What additional “harmful” tips do you have?