When you are going through a divorce, the well-being and happiness of your children is often your primary concern. Divorce can be devastating to not only you but your children as well. That is why it is so important that you make sure your children know they are loved, no matter what happens between their parents.
Too often, parents make the mistake of involving their children in their marital disputes. This can make the divorce even more emotionally difficult for children.
During your divorce (and after), be sure to avoid the following five mistakes that warring parents commonly make.
1. Making your child the messenger
Many parents, still feeling the sting of divorce, attempt to avoid communication with their ex-spouse by making their child the messenger. While this may avoid confrontation between parents, it puts an enormous burden on the child and causes emotional stress.
Instead of using your child to relay messages to the other parent, consider using email or another form of written communication. Not only does this eliminate the tension that comes with face-to-face communication, it also serves as a record that can be used in court later, if necessary.
2. Making your child your therapist
When you need someone to talk to about the pain of your divorce, do not turn to your child. He or she is not your therapist. When you talk to your child about your anger, hurt feelings, or the details of your divorce, it does emotional damage to him or her. Instead, talk to family, friends, or a licensed therapist.
3. Failing to listen
Following a divorce, children can feel confused, upset, or angry. Your child needs to know that you are there. You don’t need to have all the answers; you just need to let your child know that you understand and that you are listening. Do not criticize your ex-spouse in front of your child or tell your child what to think about the other parent.
4. Treating conversations about the other parent as interrogations
When your child returns from your ex-spouse’s house, it’s important to act with care. Saying nothing signals to your child that he or she is not allowed to talk about experiences with the other parent. Asking too many questions can make your child feel stressed. Try to avoid these extremes. Instead, keep your questions general and light-hearted.
5. Failing to make amends
If you’ve made any of the mistakes above, it may seem like there is no repairing the damage done. However, it is rarely too late to forgive and forget. Apologize to your child, and explain how you are going to change your behavior in the future. An apology can go a long way toward strengthening your relationship.
If you need guidance helping your children get through your divorce, please visit WebMD’s Divorce Directory.