It doesn’t happen in every situation, but when divorce devastation drives parents to resentment before, during, and after the legal proceedings, kids suffer. The damage is real. Not everyone can separate amicably, and children end up feeling all sorts of things.
One of the best things parents can do is NOT stir the pot by saying the wrong things to their kids. That goes for both sides. Making sure the kids have some degree of normalcy in their day-to-day lives and feel loved unconditionally should be the priority.
On that note, some things should be off limits when talking your kids about your divorce. If therapy isn’t an option, try to chin-check yourself by avoiding letting these things slip out of your mouth:
Your dad is a real _____.
Ditto for mom. Fill in the blank with any unflattering noun but don’t say it out loud to your kids. It’s tempting to badmouth your ex, but remember that your child is 50% you and 50% your former partner. Let them continue to love the other parent without having to listen to you “vent,” no matter how angry you are.
Why don’t you want to spend more time with me? You were with your mom/dad all week.
Emotional manipulation is never a good thing. Your kids shouldn’t be burdened by your guilt trips or feel like they are a trophy in the middle of a competition. It’s not a contest when it comes to your child’s love or affections.
Don’t say anything or they’ll take you away from me.
Why put undue stress on your child by making him keep secrets? Your fears about custody and court should not overshadow your common sense. You’ll only instill fear in your child and put them unfairly in the middle. Leave them out of heavy custody discussions.
We’d have more money if your dad wasn’t so selfish.
Financial woes should not fall on the ears or shoulders of your child. Avoid the blame-game here so your child doesn’t feel like she’s a financial burden and is responsible for earning her keep.
Your mom/dad doesn’t love us anymore.
You are hurt. Your child or teen may have witnessed the conflict or pain between you two, but kids should be reassured that they are loved unconditionally, no matter how the parents feel about each other.
Did your dad/mommy have any company when you were over there?
Setting your kid up to be a spy is dishonest and again puts them in the middle. You run the risk of your child clamming up on you if your reaction to their snooping is off the rails. Instead, speak to your ex directly if you have concerns.
It’s not your fault.
By even broaching the subject of who’s at fault, you’re subconsciously planting seeds in your child’s mind that it somehow is on them. Explain that you are splitting up but do so in a way that is easy for them to process at their age. If you need help, consult a therapist or even a pediatrician.
Don’t listen to your mom.
Whatever you do, don’t undermine the other parent’s rules and boundaries. Kids need consistency when it comes to rules, so try to get on the same page and form a united front.
You are just like your father.
Or mother. You are not only putting the other parent down but also your child. Stay away from attaching negative traits to your child and comparing them to the other parent. Stick to using uplifting, positive language so you don’t kill your kid’s self-image.
This list could be infinitely longer but we’re sure you get the picture. It’s also a good idea to clue your friends and family in on the rules of what’s okay to say or what’s not. There doesn’t need to be a bandwagon of people filling your child’s ears up with negative input.
A family split will always be sad, but whatever you can do to ease the emotional toll on your child will help everyone work towards healing. Seek professional help if you need assistance with navigating a separation.
Have you ever been guilty of saying mean things to your child about your ex? Were you able to avoid doling out verbal damage?