Common Mistakes Divorced and Divorcing Parents Make

Mistakes to Avoid for Divorced Parents

The divorce process is obviously very difficult emotionally for the parties involved; however, what divorced or divorcing parents must keep in mind is that a divorce can be even more difficult for their children.  You and your ex-spouse need to put your differences aside to help promote the welfare of your children as their interests are of paramount importance.  The following are a few mistakes that many divorced parents make:
CHILDREN AS MESSENGERS:
Make sure to not use your children as messengers.  There are too many parents out there that try to communicate to his/her ex-spouse through the children.  Using your children as messengers causes them a lot of undue emotional stress and requires them to be a negotiator for an issue that the parents could not handle on their own.  Any problems that may arise between you and your ex-spouse should be handled directly between you two.
Parents can communicate through phone or in person about their issues, but remember to never discuss such issues in front of the children.  If you use one of these manners to communicate, make sure to stay focused on the task at hand.  Further, do not bring up past issues or ‘old wounds’ because it is counter-productive and it is important to move forward with your lives and to discuss your children’s well-being.  Additionally, when your ex-spouse starts to become angry or else antagonizes you, be the bigger person.  Do not stoop to that level as it can only lead to negative comments and cause your discussion to veer off course.  If phone calls or face-to-face communications with your ex-spouse tend to be unproductive or too heated, there are other options to consider.  Many parents now use email as a great mechanism for communicating with your ex-spouse.  Emails allow each parent time to think about what they want to say ahead of time in a calm, rational manner and help facilitate discussing your children without derailing into negative areas.  It also allows you to take a step back and collect your thoughts before responding to the other’s email.  Emails are also recorded messages that are admissible as evidence in court and so parents tend to be more careful with the wording and issues they include in their communications.
CHILDREN AS THERAPISTS:
Make sure to not use your children as therapists.  Refrain from sharing any details of the divorce with your children and any angry feelings about your ex-spouse.  This can cause unnecessary anxiety on your children and can negatively affect your child’s view of the other parent.  It also puts them in the middle of your past relationship, can cause them to doubt the possibility of the existence of a stable relationship, and can even cause them to view you in a less than favorable light.  The children may seem understanding when you speak with them about such topics; however, you need to be the parent and maintain appropriate boundaries with your children.  If you need help, get outside help for yourself and get therapy if necessary.
IGNORING YOUR CHILDREN’S THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS:
Try to understand your children.  They need to feel as if they are understood.  Do not tell your children what to think during or after a divorce, but, instead, listen to what they have to say.  Never criticize your ex-spouse because your children, who are 50% of your ex-spouse, can take that as a criticism of his/herself resulting in emotional trauma or instability.  Sometimes as a parent, you don’t have to have a solution to a child’s problem.  They just want to be heard and know that their parents are there for them.
Avoid giving your children the “third degree.”  After a divorce, your children will be spending some time with you and some time with your ex-spouse.  When your children come back from staying with your ex-spouse, treat that visit away as if the children had just visited an aunt or uncle.  If you don’t talk with your children or say nothing about their visit with their other parent, this will force your children to compartmentalize both worlds.  It will also lead to them keeping secrets from you and can also negatively impact their desire to communicate and be open with you.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, grilling the children about what happened at the other parent’s house can also cause stress and put them right in the middle of both parents.  Remember that, although you and your ex-spouse have issues, you two made the decision to have children together and so you should promote those relationships.  Ask your children fun, general, and light questions about their visitations, don’t be judgmental of their responses, and then let any negative feelings go.
FAILING TO WORK ON YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR CHILDREN:
Continue to attempt to repair the damage that has already been done to the children.  If, after reading this, you’ve realized you may have unintentionally made some mistakes with your children, it is never too late to help undo any emotional damage that your children may have faced.  Children are usually forgiving so if you have made some mistakes, apologize to them.  Saying you are sorry can go a long way with your children.  Tell them what you have done is wrong and let them know that you will be changing your behavior.  Some parents who realize that they still talk too much about their ex-spouse unintentionally can give their children a specific “safe” signal.  For example, you can tell your children to raise their hand when you begin criticizing your ex-spouse.  This is an easy way for your children to tell you that “you’re doing it again” and need to stop.
Whether you are thinking about a divorce, child custody, or support case, the attorneys at Banks & Brower, LLC can help you.  Give us a call at (317) 870-0019, or email us at info@banksbrower.com.  We are available to take your call 24/7/365.

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