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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 January 5, 2022

How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

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How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

We all lose our temper from time to time, and expressing anger is actually a healthy thing to do in our relationships with others. Expressing our differences in opinion allows us to have healthy conflict and many times come to an agreement or understanding that works for everyone. However, there are times when anger can become overwhelming or damaging, and during these times, it’s important to learn how to deal with anger.

Expressing anger inappropriately can be harmful to relationships, both personal and professional. You may express too much anger, too often, or at times that are only going to make things worse, not better. In this article we will look at anger management techniques that will help you better control your emotions.

Let’s take a deeper look at how to deal with anger.

Expressing Anger

Anger is a natural and normal part of almost any relationship. This includes relationships with your significant other, kids, boss, friends, family, etc. Anger provides us with valuable information if we are willing to listen to it. It clues us in to areas where we disagree with others and things that need to be changed or altered.

Unhealthy Ways to Express Anger

Here are some common yet unhealthy ways to express anger that you should avoid:

Being Passive-Aggressive

This is a term many of us are familiar with. Passive-aggressive behavior happens when someone is angry but uses indirect communication to express their anger.

Some of the more common passive-aggressive behaviors include the silent treatment, making comments about someone behind their back, being grumpy, moody, or pouting, or simply not doing tasks or assignments that they should.

This is a passive-aggressive person’s way of showing their anger. It’s not very productive but extremely common.

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Poorly-Timed

Some people get overwhelmed and express anger in a situation where it can’t really do any good.

An example would be getting angry at one person in front of a crowd of people. All that does is make people uncomfortable and shuts them down. It’s not a healthy way to express anger or disagreement with someone.

Ongoing Anger

Being angry all the time is most often a symptom of something else. It’s healthy and normal to express anger when you disagree with someone. However, if someone is angry most of the time and always seems to be expressing their anger to everyone around them, this won’t serve them well.

Over time, people will start to avoid this person and have as little contact as possible. The reason being is no one likes being around someone who is angry all the time; it’s a no-win situation.

Healthy Ways to Express Anger

What about the healthy ways[1] to adapt? When learning how to deal with anger, here are some healthy ways to get you started.

Being Honest

Express your anger or disagreement honestly. Be truthful about what it is that is making you angry. Sometimes this will entail walking away and thinking about it for a bit before you respond.

Don’t say you’re mad at something someone did or said when it’s really something else that upset you.

Being Direct

Similar to being honest, being direct is a healthy way to express anger.

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Don’t talk around something that is making you angry. Don’t say that one thing is making you angry when it’s really something else, and don’t stack items on top of each other so you can unload on someone about 10 different things 6 months from now.

Be direct and upfront about what is making you angry. Ensure you are expressing your anger to the person who upset you or you are angry at, not to someone else. This is very counterproductive.

Being Timely

When something makes you angry, it’s much better to express it in a timely manner. Don’t keep it bottled up inside of you, as that’s only going to do more harm than good.

Think of the marriages that seem to go up in flames out of nowhere when the reality is someone kept quiet for years until they hit their breaking point.

Expressing anger as it occurs is a much healthier way of using anger to help us guide our relationships in the moment.

How to Deal With Anger

If you feel angry, how should you deal with it right at that moment?

1. Slow Down

From time to time, I receive an email at work that makes me so angry that steam is probably pouring out of my ears.

In my less restrained moments, I have been known to fire off a quick response, and that typically has ended about as well as you might imagine.

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When I actually walk away from my computer and go do something else for a while, I am able to calm down and think more rationally. After that happens, I am able to respond in a more appropriate and productive manner. Doing things that helps you learn how to release anger can make an uncomfortable situation more manageable before it gets out of hand.

2. Focus on the “I”

Remember that you are the one that’s upset. Don’t accuse people of making you upset because, in the end, it’s your response to what someone did that really triggered your anger. You don’t want to place blame by saying something like “Why don’t you ever put away your dishes?” Say something more like “Having dirty dishes laying on the counter upsets me—can you work with me to come to a solution?”

When you are accusatory towards someone, all that does is increase the tension. This doesn’t usually do anything except make your anger rise higher.

3. Work out

When learning how to deal with anger, exercise is a great outlet. If something happens that angers you, see if you have the opportunity to burn off some of the anger.

Being able to hit the gym to get a hard workout in is great. If this isn’t an option, see if you can go for a run or a bike ride. If you are at work when you become angry and the weather permits, at least go outside for a brisk walk.

Besides working some of your anger out through exercise, this also helps to give your mind a chance to work through some ways to address what it is that upset you.

4. Seek Help When Needed

There are times when we could all use some help. Life can be stressful and overwhelming. It’s perfectly fine to seek some help from a mental health professional if it will help you get back to a healthy balance.If you find that you are angry all the time, it might be a good idea to go talk to an expert about learning to control intense emotions. They can give you some sound advice and ideas on how to get your anger to a more manageable and healthy level.

5. Practice Relaxation

We all seem to lead incredibly busy lives, and that’s a good thing if we are loving the life we are living. That being said, it is very beneficial to our physical and mental well-being to take time out for relaxation.

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That can mean spending time doing things that help us calm down and relax, like being around people we enjoy, practicing deep breathing or listening to music. It could be making time for things that help bring us balance like a healthy diet and physical activity.

Many people incorporate techniques such as yoga and meditation to calm their minds and release tension when learning how to deal with anger. Whatever your choice is, ensure you take time out to relax when warning signs of anger start to bubble up.

6. Laugh

Incorporating humor and laughter on a regular basis will help keep anger in check and help you get over a bad mood and feelings of anger more quickly. This isn’t part of formal anger management techniques, but you’ll be surprised by how well it works. Remember, life is a journey that’s meant to be enjoyed fully along the way through healthy emotion. Make sure you take time to laugh and have fun.Surround yourself with people that like to laugh and enjoy life. Don’t work at a job that just causes you stress, which can lead to anger. Work at something you enjoy doing.

7. Be Grateful

It’s easy to focus on the bad in life and the things that cause us negative emotions. It’s vitally important to remind ourselves of all the wonderful things in life that bring us positive emotions, things that we easily forget because we get caught up in the whirlwind of day to day life.

Take time out each day to remind yourself of a few things you are grateful for in order to help you learn how to release anger and invite in more positive feelings.

Final Thoughts

Life can be overwhelming at times. We seem to have constant pressure to achieve more and to always be on the go or motivated. People we are around and situations we are in can cause stress, anger, and negative emotions. At times, it can seem to be too much, and we get angry and our emotions start to get out of control.

During these times, keep in mind that life is an incredible journey, full of wonder and things that bring you joy. When you find yourself angry more often than is healthy, take time out to remember the good things in life—the things that we seem to forget yet bring us so much positive energy and emotions.

Use some of the tips included here to help with how to deal with anger and better control your emotions.

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More Resources on Anger Management

Featured photo credit: Andre Hunter via unsplash.com

Reference

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