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

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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 July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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