Tips & Resources

Children and Divorce:

One of the most stressful events in a child's life is dealing with parents who are separating or divorcing. Even when kids see their parents constantly fighting and angry with one another, many of them wish they'd stay together and are frightened and confused when faced with the inevitable changes that divorce brings. What makes this even more difficult is the fact that many children, especially younger ones--believe that somehow they are at fault when their parents are unable to stay together. The fact that divorce happens in so many families these days is no consolation to kids who are affected by it.

Therefore, how can parents who decide to separate minimize the anxiety and fear their children will experience? I believe, having worked with so many well-meaning, loving parents for so many years, that they must never--not ever--bad-mouth the other parent in any way. No matter how much anger, resentment, disdain, etc. Mom feels towards Dad and vice versa, kids can't divorce their parents. When one parent says anything negative about their ex-spouse in front on his or her child, that child is being put in an impossible position. He suffers from guilt, divided loyalties, and fear of showing loving feelings toward the parent who is being bad-mouthed. It's fine to share your feelings about your ex with your adult friends and any other empathic listeners, but keep them from your children at all costs. The most loving thing separated parents can do is to avoid ever forcing their child to take sides. As one mother in my workshop reported when she was trying to get her ten year old son to decide with which parent to spend a holiday week, he said in an anguished voice: "Mom, please don't make me choose!".Another parent told me that even though she thinks her ex-husband is the most immature, irresponsible person she knows, she says to her daughters: "I love my Daddy and I want you to love your Daddy. He loves you and can't wait to see you."An amicable divorce may sound like a contradiction in terms, but for children, it's an enormous gift. You can divorce one another, but they can never divorce you.

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