Studies have shown that exposure to parental conflict is a major factor in a child’s emotional wellbeing whether the parents are separated, divorced or together. As such, parents should strive to reduce the conflict their children are exposed to at any point during their relationship. This can be especially difficult when there has been a breakdown in the marriage. However, the following 5 tips provide effective co-parenting tips which will assist in reducing children’s exposure to conflict.
Communicating through the children
While it may be convenient to ask your children to carry messages from one parent to the other, this can be a huge cause of anxiety in children. Even the most seemingly mundane messages such as “remind mom to check that the fire alarms have batteries” can place children in very awkward positions. If you need to communicate a message to the other parent, always do it yourself. Different methods of communication work best for different co-parents. You may prefer to use text or email, while some may need to use an app such as Our Family Wizard to communicate. Find a method that works for both you and the other party and ensure you are both in agreement to never use the kids as messengers.
Speaking negatively about the other parent or allowing others to do so
It can be difficult to bite your tongue when in a disagreement. However, if your children are around, it is absolutely imperative that you do not speak negatively about the other party in front of them. Remember, your kids love you both equally and it causes them distress to hear one of you talk badly about the other. It is equally important that you do not allow anyone else to speak negatively about the other parent around your children.
Showing jealousy towards the other parent’s new life
Eventually, both parties will move on with their lives and the lifestyle shared during the marriage may change for one or both parties. Some common changes following divorce are moving to a new residence and/or city, remarrying, cohabitating with a new partner, a change in employment or a number of these combined. While you may feel “left behind” by the other party or even spiteful that they are enjoying new experiences, it is important that you do not victimize your current situation in front of the children. Avoid comments such as “must be nice your dad can go to Cabo with his new girlfriend, but I can’t even take you out for dinner” or “your mom must be making a lot of money at her new job – think of the house we could have had if she worked when we were together”. These comments only make your children feel guilty and like they are a burden.
Ignoring your children’s time spent with the other parent.
Children want to feel loved by both parents and it is certainly not their job to shield you from any emotional turmoil you may experience because of them enjoying time with the other parent. By ignoring the time spent with the other parent, you are subtly teaching them to not show love towards that parent or that they need to protect you from their relationship with other people.
Sharing financial burdens.
Under no circumstances is it ever okay to share financial stress with your children. Of course, you must be realistic and may need to have honest discussions with them about household financial responsibility, spending and expectations, these conversations need to be age appropriate. When framed incorrectly, children can walk away from financial discussions feeling like a burden which may cause may stress and anxiety.
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.