Divorce tends to hit children hard. They have no choice in what happens to the family structure, and they have to deal with change and conflict on a regular basis. But there are ways to keep that from happening. You should know that the impact your divorce will have on your children depends mainly on how you and your spouse choose to treat each other during and after divorce and, how you choose to parent. Children who witness conflict between their parents during and after divorce, feel as if they have been put in the middle of that conflict. If you want your divorce to do as little harm as possible to your children, it’s your job to keep the parent conflict to a minimum. You may feel that conflict during divorce is unavoidable or the fault of the other parent. Regardless of how you feel, it is imperative that you take the steps needed to keep your children from witnessing conflict and feeling stuck in the middle of two angry parents.
To minimize the impact divorce has on the children, consider these tips.
- Resist the urge to put down the other parent. Divorce happens for a reason – two people no longer want to live together and may very well not like each other. With emotions running hot, it may be tempting to turn that anger into verbal expressions to the children. It is best for the children, however, that both parents keep their emotions to themselves and speak of the other parent in positive terms only because while one parent may no longer care for the other parent, for the children, the other parent is always their parent.
- Do not use the children as pawns. It can be tempting to speak through the children to the other parent, but doing so only places the children in the middle of a conflict that has nothing to do with them. It also forces children to take sides or become manipulative in their own right.
- Money will not compensate for ending a marriage. Some parents with means who feel aggrieved by a divorce outcome try to buy back the children by taking expensive and frequent trips or buying the children lots of expensive stuff. This behavior only sends the wrong message to the children that money and love have some connection.
- Parent as a united team. Children need consistency in basic rules and norms. If one parent becomes oppositional just to be oppositional, the rules break down and children get confused and could be tempted to be manipulative or even eventually to choose sides because they like one set of rules over another. Children benefit most when they know rules apply across the board.
- Don’t use your children as a messenger. Communicate on parent issues only with the other parent. Using your children as a messenger puts them in the middle of you and the other parent along with the added stress of remembering to deliver the actual message.
- Don’t interrogate your children about the other parent. They are not a means of finding out information about the other parent’s home, dating life, and social activities.
- Don’t share adult details about the problems between you and your spouse. Details such as information about infidelity, child support, financial division, the status of the divorce proceedings, etc.
If you follow these basic tips, you will go a long way toward making life better for your children.
You should also take the time to choose the parenting style that fits best for you and your spouse to keep your children out of the middle. Below are the two most common parenting styles for you to consider:
- Cooperative Parenting
This style works best when there is low conflict between parents and the parents can work together for the best interests of their children. With cooperative parenting, there is more flexibility when it comes to physical custody schedules. Parents can communicate in person or over the phone without engaging in conflict. Cooperative parents put their children’s needs above their personal needs and feelings. The relationship with the other parent is focused on what is best for their children and handled in a friendly business relationship manner. Parents discuss child issues when they arise and are can stick to the topic at hand without becoming distracted by marriage ending issues. Neither parent expects any praise from the other parent but expects support during difficult parenting times. Cooperative parents don’t involve the children in any parent discussions. Instead, the parents discuss, come to a firm decision as parents, and then inform the children of their joint decision. Child support checks are timely mailed directly to the receiving parent as both parents understand the importance of meeting their financial obligations for their children.
- Parallel Parenting
This style works best when there is a lot of conflict between parents. Why? Parallel parenting allows each parent to remain a part of their children’s lives while reducing the need for contact with each other. When parallel parenting, there is very little communication which, in turn, keeps down the conflict and protects the children from being impacted in a negative manner. Parallel parents communicate through an app like Our Family Wizard to stay informed about issues and expenses involving the children. Discussions are strictly about the children and no personal issues between the parents as the OFW messages can be used in court proceedings. Using a mobile phone to call or text in cases of emergency or urgency. There is little flexibility between parallel parents. Physical custody schedules strictly follow the court ordered parenting plan. There is little to no negotiating for different days or times to avoid the likelihood of a conflict. When the children are in the care of the other parent, you don’t interfere with anything that takes place at the other parent’s residence. Neither parent has any influence over how the other parent chooses to spend time with the children. If one parent has an issue with the way the other parent is choosing to parent in their residence, the court is used to address the issue. Child support payments are paid by an income withholding order through the court system to record all payments and keep down any possibility of late payment or conflicts over payments.
It is important to remember that the best parenting style choice is the method that will result in the least amount of conflict as that will result in overall better parenting and keep your children out of the middle of your divorce.
Should you need the assistance of an experienced child custody attorney or have any questions for a divorce attorney, know that we are here to help and ready to discuss those questions with you.