Divorce hurts -- no doubt about it. It hurts your offspring perhaps the most, and this is partly because they are powerless to do anything about it. They also can feel torn in their loyalties between you and your ex. It is important for you to avoid making the following mistakes that can harm your children.
1. Refuse to Cooperate or Negotiate with the Other Parent
While dividing up your assets may be difficult and take some time, issues involving your children should take precedence. Mediation can be very helpful in discussing custody arrangements and coming to a civil agreement about them. Custody agreements should reflect the changing needs of your kids as they grow up. Responsibilities and decision-making can also be shared or divided up, so that parents can support each other.
2. Continually Talk Negatively About the Other Parent
Talking bad about the other parent in front of the kids, or to them, is a common mistake. Your children naturally love your ex and may identify somewhat with them. Don't forget: they got up to half their genetic material from the other parent, and if they begin to see them in a negative light, they are going to have self-esteem issues as time goes on.
This habit can also hurt your relationship with the kids in another way: they may develop less respect for you, especially if they feel sympathy for the other parent.
3. Completely Sabotage the Other Parent's Relationship with the Children
Some parents go beyond occasional negative comments and actively try to destroy the relationship their kids have with the ex. This is called "parental alienation." It can be motivated by spite, desire for revenge, inability to deal with guilt, or a number of other emotions. If you feel an overpowering need to do this, you should see a therapist. There is no shame in recognizing this desire in yourself, if you also work on overcoming it.
Parents have an immense psychological power over their children, especially if they have sole or primary custody of them. You could virtually destroy any respect or affection your children have for your ex, but you are also destroying a potential source of support you could have when your children have problems at school, or want to rebel against authority, etc.
So avoid any temptation to act passive-aggressively towards your ex when it comes to visitation arrangements.
Use your powers for good! Help your children become happy, well-adjusted people who treat others with love and respect.
4. Ignore Their Preferences about Custody and Living Arrangements
Practice some active listening when your children tell you where they want to live and with whom, especially if they are older. You may not be able to accommodate their desires completely, or even partially, but take some time to listen carefully and consider what they have to say, without interrupting or thinking about what you are going to say. Work hard on understanding the meaning behind their words.
This will lessen any resentment they may have building towards you or your ex.
5. Make the Children Feel Responsible for the Divorce
You could be making your children feel responsible for your marital problems without realizing it. One way is to be dishonest or non-communicative with them about the reasons for the breakup. Another way is to neglect your kids, because you aren't handling your own emotions very well.
6. Refuse to take the Kids to a Counselor when they need it
Kids may need an impartial 3rd party to talk to, so don't be reluctant to get help for them. Therapy involves helping people to work out problems in a congenial atmosphere, and counselors are trained to respect personal beliefs and religious preferences. Counselors also endeavor to be impartial and to improve relationships, while strengthening family bonds.
What you need to do:
To recap, to help your children grow up feeling secure and happy after you and their other parent have divorced, encourage them to continue to love and respect the other parent. Be cooperative, respect the feelings of the children, and encourage the other parent to remain a part of their lives.
Finally, be honest with your divorce attorney, such as someone from the Law Offices of Lynda Latta, LLC, about any family problems, because they may be able to suggest helpful resources for you and will have some creative solutions for custody issues.
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