By Debra K. Waranch, LCSW-C
You used to love each other, maybe you used to like each other— but no longer… After years of marriage, your relationship has ended and you are moving towards divorce.
Many parents find themselves in this place with diverse feelings: anger, sadness, trepidation and worry. You ask yourself, “How will this affect my child? Children? My relationships with them? Will we still be a family? What will we look like? Be like?” No matter how much negativity you feel between you and your spouse, you still want what is best for your children— and this may be defined differently for each parent. You want them not to be hurt, and to come through this family divorce healthy. But how do you achieve this?
Many children do come out of a divorced home with little difficulty, but others do not. What makes the difference? How can you help to ensure that your child grows up to be her/ his healthiest self?
Do not put your child in the middle between you and your ex. Children usually have a connection with both of their parents, so when you divorce, your child continues to have parental relationships with their mother and father. This can often be very painful to the other parent. Remember: it was your relationship, your marriage, and it is your divorce. Own it and don’t allow your children to pick sides. Understand their love and care for their other parent.
Don’t speak negatively about your ex. Better to say nothing, than to say something negative about your child’s other parent. This will backfire on you and may cause your child to come to the other person’s defense and side against you. Maintain an appropriate parent-child boundary.
Don’t talk to your children like they are your friend. They will have many friends. They only get one mother and father. Don’t treat them like they are older than they are. Research shows us that children of divorce are often exposed to things at an earlier age, but often they are not developmentally ready for the information/experience. Allow your child to be a child.
Don’t ask your child to be the messenger between you and your ex, nor ask them to be the handoff with things like money, keys or mail between you and your ex. It may seem to you like it’s nothing, but to your child it could mean something much more and puts them directly in the middle.
So, how can you help your child make a smooth transition through a very difficult situation? Put yourself in your child’s shoes, see things from his or her perspective, feel what he is feeling, experience what she is experiencing. You might find out you do things a lot differently when you look it from your child’s point of view.
Be the parent your child deserves.
By Debra K. Waranch, LCSW-C, JCS Therapy Services
Because parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual, JCS offers a variety of programs, services, education and support for parents and families with children of all ages. Click here or call 410-466-9200 to learn more.