A divorce affects the entire family, not just the spouses. Divorcing Tennessee parents have to make sure that their squabbles don’t affect their kids, which is often easier said than done.
So how can parents better protect their vulnerable offspring from any negative fallout from the split? One expert on divorce and families offers some tips to avoid common mistakes:
Kids aren’t messengers
Some co-parents struggle in their post-divorce relationships with their exes. When every interaction ends with slammed doors or expletives, it might seem easier to relay information through the children.
Resist this temptation mightily. Asking kids to deliver messages to their other parent can be very emotionally stressful to them, especially if the message contains hidden snark. If you or your ex are unable to interact civilly, use email or other electronic media to make contact.
Don’t overshare divorce details
Parents should explain the divorce to their children in terms the kids will understand. They should also answer questions the kids might ask, but it’s important to not paint one parent as a bad person.
If mom cheated or dad’s gambling habit caused the family to get evicted, it can be tempting to share these tidbits with the kids. That’s not fair to the children, though, as they love their other parent despite their flaws. Being confronted with a parent’s failings may cause the child to take on some of the shame that the wronged parent intended for their ex.
If you are so angry that you can’t quit telling your “done me wrong” story, get into therapy to work out your issues.
Empathize with and understand your children
Feeling misunderstood by peers is one thing, but to feel misunderstood by one’s own family members is a special kind of hell for youngsters. Home should be a safe space where no one has to hide their true feelings.
Set aside some time with each child for them to air grievances, ask questions and express their feelings of sadness or anger. It’s less important that you try to fix it than it is to listen and validate their feelings.
Don’t give kids the third degree
Even if it’s killing you to know what your son thought about meeting your ex’s new beau, don’t put him in the position of describing the scenario to you.
Alternatively, you don’t want to appear so closed-off about their other parent that your child feels unable to talk about anything that happened while in your ex’s custody. Maybe they’d like to share something fun about the weekend or worse, discuss how mom’s new boyfriend creeps them out. Be open to their concerns and joys without prying.
Co-parenting is an ongoing challenge
Some days it might feel like an uphill battle to co-parent with your ex, but the rewards will come once the two of you have managed to rear joyful and functional adults with the skill sets they need to navigate life.