When parents are divorcing, children often get pulled into the middle of their arguments. It is so important to keep them out !
Divorce is a tough process. It is difficult, painful and expensive both emotionally and financially. Often times, parents, and good parents who care about their kids, end up putting their kids in the middle. Sometimes it is purposeful to show the ex they have the kids on their side or to validate their feelings. But sometimes, it is not conscious, as people are so hurt and angry that they say things to the kids not realizing the impact.
When kids are put in the middle, they struggle. Most children love both of their parents and do not want to hear bad things about the other parent. They love each of them and don’t want to be put in the postion of having to choose. If a child hears that their other parent is mean, or has done bad things, the child will feel anxious and have difficulty dealing with the information. They already feel a loyalty conflict by virtue of the fact that their parents are living separately and they are seeing them independently. That is hard enough. Our job as parents, is to try to make it easier for our kids. We make choices that impact them and it is our repsonsibility as adults to make it as smooth as possible.
Research on divorce tells us that kids do well if there is a minimum of conflict between their parents. There is always some conflict. But that means the parents need to keep the conflict they have to themselves, and not involve their kids. They need to talk when the kids are not around so they won’t be overheard. That is an important comittment parents can make to one another for the sake of their children. There’s a question professionals in my field often ask divorced parents: Do you love your kids more than you hate your ex ? If the answer is yes, you need to exercise some self control!
Recently, a woman going through a divorce told me that her daughter revealed that her ex was planning a trip to the Caribbean with his new girlfirend. She said she was seething. She certainly couldn’t afford to go away and had no one to go away with! She wanted to curse him out, scream that he complained he had no money and this proves he was lying. She wanted to tell her daughter he was a rotten lying pig. Instead, she smiled and said, “how nice for daddy, he likes the beach.” She said she could see the anxiety on her daughter’s face dissipate, as the child smiled and ran off. Although this was a hard thing for this mom to do, the feedback she got, seeing her daughter’s behavior, helped her realize that her attentiveness to her daughter’s affect and behavior was so important. It was so powerful and encouraged her to deal with her feelings in an appropriate way. She knew she could talk about her feelings and deal with her anger and resentment with other adults, and not involve her daughter. This little girl will grow up happy and healthy in a bi-nuclear family.