Parenting is difficult at any time. But it is even harder when a couple ends their marriage. The parent must, despite distractions and urges, place the best interests of their children first and avoid these common errors.
The most common mistake parents make in a divorce is exposing their children to their worst conduct and problems in the relationship. Spouses should not insult, threaten, argue and belittle their soon-to-be ex in front of their children. Physical harm is absolutely unacceptable regardless of whether there are any witnesses.
Likewise, children are not a parent’s counselor or sounding board. Sharing your feelings and perceived faults of the other parent is harmful to the children’s development.
Also, divorced parents often discuss visitation and custody issues and financial matters in front of their children. This often occurs on car rides, visits with friends and chatting on their iPhones.
These conversations must take place when the children cannot hear. Otherwise, children will feel that they are a burden or responsible for their parents’ problems.
Children cannot take the place of the other divorcing or assume their emotional, financial or family responsibilities. This is time consuming and takes away their childhood.
Failure to provide consistency and a secure environment makes children feel insecure and abandoned.
Continuity and security are important for children. A predictable school, homework, extracurricular sports, and social routine help prevent feelings of upheaval.
Parents must reassure their children that they are not responsible for the breakup of their parents’ marriage. Reassurance must occur repeatedly because children often experience guilt. Parents need to remind their children that they will always support them, even if they live in different locations.
Spies and messengers
Time spent with the other parent should be enjoyable. Children are not spies and they should never be interrogated about their other parent’s activities, relationships or spending. Questions about time spent with their other parent should be positive and you should inquire about whether the children enjoyed their visit.
Likewise, children should not serve as couriers because their parents are not communicating. Spouses should use email or their attorneys to convey messages, especially unpleasant communications.
Using the children as revenge or to punish the other parent is definitely not in their best interest. Moving away to restrict visitation or not inviting parents to special events such as a school play, graduation or other special event may punish the other parent. But it harms the children even more.
Parents must also avoid the temptation of one-upmanship and lavishing extra attention, gifts, and extravagant trips on children to make their visits special or to reduce the impact of divorce. Parenting duties, which include reasonableness and sometime saying no, must continue.
Parents need to agree on boundaries and consistency. Parenting should be as close as possible to the predivorce period.
Attorneys can assist spouses with confronting difficult issues such as custody, support and property division. They can help parents seek a fair and reasonable decree.