Here’s What NOT To Do During A Divorce
If you are going through a separation or divorce it’s likely you want to protect your children from conflict and make the transition as smooth as possible. Our mediators are well versed in the impact that divorce can have on children. That is why they have put together this list of the worst things you can do to your children during this stressful time. Use this list is a reference when you need to reflect on your actions to ensure your doing what’s best for your kids.
Expose Them To Conflict
The #1 indication of how children will fare into adulthood is not whether their parents are together, separated or divorced but if they are exposed to conflict. Protect your children from conflict by:
- only exchanging pleasantries with the other parent in front of or within earshot of the children;
- not discussing issues in dispute or legal matters with children;
- exchanging information/schedule change requests/etc. directly with the other parent and not using the children as messengers;
- being mindful of words, attitude and body language during interaction with the other parent or when the other parent is discussed; and
- not saying (or allowing others to say) anything negative about the other parent within earshot of the children.
Put Them In The Middle
Avoid using the children to relay plans/information/requested changes to the schedule/support cheques, as this puts them directly in between their parents and directly in the middle of the tension. As well, even when parents are amicable, it is best to let children be children and not have them feel that they need to facilitate the co-parenting relationship.
Try To Turn Them Against The Other Parent
Avoid making negative comments about the other parent in front of the children (and ensure others do not either). Remember, behaviour counts! Avoid negative body language as well. Even if you do not say anything negative, a sigh, cringe, tensing up or becoming teary is just as powerful a message about how you feel about the other parent. Doing this leads to the children being in a loyalty bind. Your children love and identifies with both parents and if you say something negative about one parent, you are saying something negative about the child by extension. Or, at best, confusing the child (how can I love the person you hate when I love you too). It’s natural for anyone to get defensive when something negative is said about a family member, even if the person frequently complains about the family member themselves. Those feelings are even more pronounced when the two people that a child loves most in the world are making those negative comments about one another.
Interfere With The Other Parent’s Time
Children need time with both parents, just as much as he/she needs love and affection from both parents. Give them the gift of that time. Avoid interfering in that time by cancelling parenting time, unnecessarily limiting time, frequently being late/early. Also avoid constantly emailing or phoning the children when they are with the other parent.
Grill The Children Before And After Parenting Time
It’s great for children to be able to talk to a parent about their time at the other parent’s home, as otherwise they can feel that their lives are disjointed and compartmentalized. However, there is a fine line between asking about their day/week/weekend and their feeling grilled. Avoid fishing for details about exactly what they did, how much screen time they had, who was there for how long, what they ate, how late they stayed up, etc. A child wants to please and protect both parents so he/she may be trying to say what he/she thinks one parent wants to hear or may become uncomfortable with questions and try to protect the other parent if he/she thinks the answers could lead to conflict.
Disclaimer: The content provided in the blog posts of Jones Divorce & Family Law is general information and should not be considered legal advice. Please contact a lawyer for legal advice tailored to your specific situation. All articles are current as of their original publication date.