As a divorce lawyer, I work with couples who are going through one of the hardest times in their lives. Divorces often cause individuals to be angry, sad and hurt. These emotions usually turn into aggression towards each other. I see parties fight and lash out at each other intending to harm the other in any way possible. Although the parties’ objectives are to hurt each other, they forget that their children are going through the divorce as well and witness all of the animosity and anger.
Many times when parents act out towards each other, they are unaware of the impact this has on their children. Kids are more perceptive than we think. They are constantly watching our actions and taking in the negative feelings ex-spouses have towards each other. Although children do not always talk with their parents about how they are feeling, kids can internalize and start to resent a parent for inserting them in the middle of a break up.
One of the important agreements made in the divorce is creating a visitation schedule with their children. Although some parents do not argue directly regarding the visitations, below are examples of how their actions can directly harm the kids.
- Do not honk the horn when waiting to pick up your child at an ex-spouses home. When a parent sits outside the other parent’s home when picking up a child and starts to honk the horn, they may be motivated by contempt, anger and may wish to get on the nerves of their ex-spouse. The honking is often done rudely. The children will immediately sense this. They will become nervous and anxious, and they might even feel that they are doing something wrong. In any event, the honking will have a negative effect on the children.
- Do not send nasty notes to each other via the children. Ex-spouses will forever be connected by their children and therefore need to communicate at some level. Sending nasty notes back and forth to each other via the child will hurt the child more than the words on the note will hurt the other parent.
- Do not ask the child specific questions about the other parent. Everyone has the right to move on with their lives during and after a divorce. Asking your child about the other parent makes the child feel like they are in the middle of their parents’ conflict. They do not want to be in a position of “tattling” on any parent. They want to have allegiance to both parents.
- Do not forbid the child to take items from your home during their visit with the other parent. Children need to feel safe and secure. Allowing the child to take items back and forth to the homes of each parent is not a reflection of wanting to remove items from one house. Rather, a child sometimes feel connected to both parents and/or secure by bringing a favorite stuffed animal or toy back and forth with them.
- Do not make the child feel guilty for leaving during visitation and/or vacation with the other parent. Children often feel guilty when leaving one parent to visit with the other. The kids put enough pressure on themselves; they do not need one parent making them feel guilty for wanting to spend time with the other, as they love both parents equally.
In order to make transitions between you and your former spouse as easy on your kids as possible, think before you act. Make sure that all of your communication between you and your ex stays between you and your ex. If you have a hard time talking to each other, make an agreement to communicate via email. Never fight or negatively communicate in front of or via your children.
Try to encourage and foster strong and positive relations between your children and your ex. This will benefit your children, their mental health, and their ability to form long-term relationships. Your ex will forever be your child’s other parent. Speak kindly about your ex to your children and in front of your children. As hard as it might be to act civilly with your ex, always take a step back, take a deep breath and remember any action you take is going to directly affect your children.
If you would like more information, please call me at (617) 973-6446 or email me Rachel@rachelengdahllaw.com
©Rachel Engdahl 2015.