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10 Common Mistakes Divorced Parents Must Keep in Mind to Avoid Hurting Their Kids

10 Common Mistakes Divorced Parents Must Keep in Mind to Avoid Hurting Their Kids

I know a man who was deeply affected by his parents’ divorce. He is now in his forties but the fact that his father practically abandoned him when he was ten years old has left him emotionally scarred. It must be said that most parents and children get back to normal after a period of two years and children are able to adapt. Very often, however, mistakes are made when children get entangled in the parental conflict.

Children of divorced parents often get caught up in the battle and they really have a lot to put up with. They end up feeling resentment, frustration and anger, but all of this can be avoided.

Here are 10 common mistakes which can leave children profoundly affected.

1. They use their child as a therapist, putting him or her in the middle of the battle.

Parents should never use children as a sounding board to vent their feelings. Telling children all the faults, insults and horrible behavior of their spouse is very harmful to the child’s development. The children were not directly involved, but now they are!

All of this hurts children deeply — after all it is 50% of them. They are trying to come to terms with losing a parent and have already started grieving. Using the child as a therapist is simply crossing the line.

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2. They make no effort to hide the conflict, exposing children to the worst of the worst.

Why should children have to witness the awful scenes where spouses insult, threaten, belittle, and even resort to physical violence? As a result, children suffer from a lack of security. Later on, they may have anxiety disorders, sleep issues, and even problems forming stable relationships themselves. (Watch the TED talk here on the impact of divorce on children.)

3. They do not provide a secure environment, and children feel abandoned.

Children may feel frightened and worried about their future. They want, above all, a sense of continuity and predictability which is strengthened by a regular routine. But often, because of the upheaval, children feel threatened. Many parents fail to co-parent and they do not provide the stability which can guarantee at least a semblance of a predictable routine in school, friends, sports and above all, homework.

Divorce often means that children lose support in these areas and it is upsetting.

4. They forget to reassure their children that it is not their fault, causing them to feel guilty.

Many parents fail to reassure their kids that it is not their fault at all that the marriage is breaking up. Kids need to be told this many times because they tend to blame themselves. Even though they will now be living separately, the children also need to be reassured that their parents will always have their back — even though they may not be under the same roof.

“Divorce isn’t such a tragedy. A tragedy’s staying in an unhappy marriage, teaching your children the wrong things about love. Nobody ever died of divorce.” – Jennifer Weiner, Fly Away Home

5. They start to interrogate the children and the children become torn.

When the children get back from their weekend with the other parent, they should never be interrogated. If they are, it can leave them emotionally damaged as they feel that they are in the boxing ring, acting as a sort of referee. The other extreme is almost worse –when the parent never asks even one question and they force the children to store away their experiences and never mention that weekend again.

Intelligent divorcees ask fun questions and never make any further comment.

6. They want their children to be messengers and they begin to take sides.

Sometimes parents may use their children to convey messages because communication has broken down. This is totally wrong because it leads to alienation of the other parent over time. Spouses should use email because this will also be a useful record in case of failure to carry out joint custody.

Asking children to spy on the domestic arrangements in the other house is equally damaging. This kind of behavior burdens the child and they cannot enjoy time with the other parent, time which should be as carefree and as happy as possible.

7. They want to punish their ex and the children suffer most.

Just think of important occasions such as a graduation ceremony or a special celebration. Many divorcees are out to gain revenge and prevent or forget to invite their ex-spouse as a sort of punishment or a way to get their own back. Sometimes, they move so far away that it severely limits visitation.

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In both these cases of sweet revenge, the child is the one who gets the worst deal of all.

8. They turn the child into a “replacement spouse”, further burdening him or her.

Making the eldest son the “man of the house” and increasing his responsibilities because of his absent father weighs heavily on a boy. A girl may be expected to be the “woman of the house”, with extra work to do. Again, this can be extremely time consuming and they later feel cheated of their childhood.

9. They spoil their children and the children pay the price later on.

Some divorcees want to lavish a lot of attention on the kids who remain at home with them. It is a way of making it up to them and also a way of diverting their own grief and pain as parents. When the children have to spend time with the parent who has moved out, it may be tempting to splurge out and spoil them with new toys and gadgets or extravagant trips.

This is a mistake because parents are forgetting their real duties and kids will later miss the real affection they wanted and needed so desperately. It should be parenting as usual, as far as possible, and both parties need to agree on boundaries and limits so that there is no one-upmanship on providing treats.

10. They discuss child support issues openly and children feel they are part of a contract.

Another mistake which divorced parents fall into is to discuss financial arrangements, parenting time and custody issues in front of their children. This may happen as they ferry their kids to the other parent and they may chat on their mobiles while their children are in the car. The children feel that they are just part of a business deal and they never really get over this. They feel that they are a burden on one or both parents. All these conversations have to take place out of earshot.

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The problem is that many parents are so consumed by anger and grief that they forget that their children’s welfare, security, and limiting the damage should always come first.

“Divorce is a fire exit. When a house is burning, it doesn’t matter who set the fire. If there is no fire exit, everyone in the house will be burned!” — Mehmet Murat ildan

Featured photo credit: Kids and Winter, Hugs Are Good!/ Tony Fischer via flickr.com

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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