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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

More by this author

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 December 10, 2019

5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

Here’s the truth: your effectiveness at life is not what it could be. You’re missing out.

Each day passes by and you have nothing to prove that it even happened. Did you achieve something? Go on a date? Have an emotional breakthrough? Who knows?

But what you do know is that you don’t want to make the same mistakes that you’ve made in the past.

Our lives are full of hidden gems of knowledge and insight, and the most recent events in our lives contain the most useful gems of all. Do you know why? It’s simple, those hidden lessons are the most up to date, meaning they have the largest impact on what we’re doing right now.

But the question is, how do you get those lessons? There’s a simple way to do it, and it doesn’t involve time machines:

Journal writing.

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Improved mental clarity, the ability to see our lives in the big picture, as well as serving as a piece of evidence cataloguing every success we’ve ever had; we are provided all of the above and more by doing some journal writing.

Journal writing is a useful and flexible tool to help shed light on achieving your goals.

Here’s 5 smart reasons why you should do journal writing:

1. Journals Help You Have a Better Connection with Your Values, Emotions, and Goals

By journaling about what you believe in, why you believe it, how you feel, and what your goals are, you understand your relationships with these things better. This is because you must sort through the mental clutter and provide details on why you do what you do and feel what you feel.

Consider this:

Perhaps you’ve spent the last year or so working at a job you don’t like. It would be easy to just suck it up and keep working with your head down, going on as if it’s supposed to be normal to not like your job. Nobody else is complaining, so why should you, right?

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But a little journal writing will set things straight for you. You don’t like your job. You feel like it’s robbing you of happiness and satisfaction, and you don’t see yourself better there in the future.

The other workers? Maybe they don’t know, maybe they don’t care. But you do, you know and care enough to do something about it. And you’re capable of fixing this problem because your journal writing allows you to finally be honest with yourself about it.

2. Journals Improve Mental Clarity and Help Improve Your Focus

If there’s one thing journal writing is good for, it’s clearing the mental clutter.

How does it work? Simply, whenever you have a problem and write about it in a journal, you transfer the problem from your head to the paper. This empties the mind, allowing allocation of precious resources to problem-solving rather than problem-storing.

Let’s say you’ve been juggling several tasks at work. You’ve got data entry, testing, e-mails, problems with the boss, and so on—enough to overwhelm you—but as you start journal writing, things become clearer and easier to understand: Data entry can actually wait till Thursday; Bill kindly offered earlier to do my testing; For e-mails, I can check them now; the boss is just upset because Becky called in sick, etc.

You become better able to focus and reason your tasks out, and this is an indispensable and useful skill to have.

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3. Journals Improve Insight and Understanding

As a positive consequence of improving your mental clarity, you become more open to insights you may have missed before. As you write your notes out, you’re essentially having a dialogue with yourself. This draws out insights that you would have missed otherwise; it’s almost as if two people are working together to better understand each other. This kind of insight is only available to the person who has taken the time to connect with and understand themselves in the form of writing.

Once you’ve gotten a few entries written down, new insights can be gleaned from reading over them. What themes do you see in your life? Do you keep switching goals halfway through? Are you constantly dating the same type of people who aren’t good for you? Have you slowly but surely pushed people out of your life for fear of being hurt?

All of these questions can be answered by simply self-reflecting, but you can only discover the answers if you’ve captured them in writing. These questions are going to be tough to answer without a journal of your actions and experiences.

4. Journals Track Your Overall Development

Life happens, and it can happen fast. Sometimes we don’t take the time to stop and look around at what’s happening to us at each moment. We don’t get to see the step-by-step progress that we’re making in our own lives. So what happens? One day it’s the future, and you have no idea how you’ve gotten there.

Journal writing allows you to see how you’ve changed over time, so you can see where you did things right, and you can see where you took a misstep and fell.

The great thing about journals is that you’ll know what that misstep was, and you can make sure it doesn’t happen again—all because you made sure to log it, allowing yourself to learn from your mistakes.

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5. Journals Facilitate Personal Growth

The best thing about journal writing is that no matter what you end up writing about, it’s hard to not grow from it. You can’t just look at a past entry in which you acted shamefully and say “that was dumb, anyway!” No, we say “I will never make a dumb choice like that again!”

It’s impossible not to grow when it comes to journal writing. That’s what makes journal writing such a powerful tool, whether it’s about achieving goals, becoming a better person, or just general personal-development. No matter what you use it for, you’ll eventually see yourself growing as a person.

Kickstart Journaling

How can journaling best be of use to you? To vent your emotions? To help achieve your goals? To help clear your mind? What do you think makes journaling such a useful life skill?

Know the answer? Then it’s about time you reap the benefits of journal writing and start putting pen to paper.

Here’s what you can do to start journaling:

Featured photo credit: Jealous Weekends via unsplash.com

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