The following 10 mistakes are the most common divorced parents make. If you can avoid them, your children have a much better chance at coming through a marriage breakdown with minimal damage caused by you and your ex-partner. Share the list with your children if they are old enough and tell them to call you out on these things if either of their parents are doing them. I know my own children definitely called me out on a few all by themselves!
- Involving your children in your conflicts. If there is still conflict leave it between you and your ex where it belongs and keep your children out of it. Divorce does not hurt kids but conflict does! Children, even when adults, should not witness it or be forced to pick sides.
- Making children choose one parent over the other. Allow your children to love both parents. Do not make them choose. It is not a competition or a popularity contest. They were born with two birth parents and should always have them in their lives if possible. Making them dislike, or worse, become estranged from one parent may make you feel better about yourself but it does a great deal of damage to your children.
- Using your kids as a confidant. Hire a therapist or find a friend willing to listen to your troubles. The children are capable of making up their minds on the situation eventually without hearing your detailed version of your divorce story. This behavior makes you look small and selfish. There is no benefit to children to carry your adult issues on their shoulders.
- Using your kids as messengers. If you need to talk to your ex, please do it yourself! It is the adult way to behave and will avoid miscommunications and misinterpretations. It is uncomfortable for the children to put them in the middle.
- Using your kids as spies. If you do not know, you probably do not need to know! Focus on what you are grateful for and forget the rest as you move on with your life. Knowledge is usually good, but interest in this kind of knowledge will do nothing to heal you or improve your life.
- Blaming your children for your problems. When you take responsibility for your life and let your kids know on no uncertain terms that they are not responsible for your issues, the kids will be relieved. Most kids of divorced couples blame themselves, at some point, even when it makes no sense, so relieve them of this worry! Even if you think your kids do not blame themselves, please tell them they are not responsible and feel their relief.
- Not setting a healthy example. Set a good example and show them how you are managing and moving forward in a positive direction after your marriage ended. This is one of the best things you can do for your children. Teach them that when things happen, a positive attitude and resilience are healthy choices that are always available. Everything in life is either a success or a lesson, so learn what you can and move on.
- Embarrassing your children by behaving badly when you are required to be with your ex-partner. Family occasions when you are included, as well as your ex, can be awkward but you should think about it from the point of view of your children. They did not want to choose one parent so they included both of you. Just be nice, get along and get through it. Do it for your kids so you may continue to be included in family occasions!
- Making ‘family time’ a competition between the parents. Caring for your kids should never be something that is viewed as a competition. Do not try to buy love or affection by throwing money and material stuff at your children. This never works well in the long run as children figure your behavior out and start using you to get what they want. Spoiling really only creates spoiled kids and unhappy situations for everyone.
- Taking the other parent out of the equation with manipulation and falsehoods. If your children really cannot have a relationship with one parent due to mental health issues, an unsafe environment, or the other parent simply not wanting a relationship, then one parent is necessary and is acceptable. If you have estranged the other parent for selfish reasons, know that kids usually figure this out eventually and may resent it. This can have a big cost on your relationship in the long run. This is also a bad legal move as it will cost both parents much more to fight this out in the courts. Why make your children suffer with one parent when they could have two parents in their lives?
If you set and keep the intention of being a good parent of healthy well-adjusted children foremost in your mind throughout your separation and divorce, all these mistakes are easy to avoid.
If you have already made some of these mistakes, I know I did, recognize them and apologize if that makes sense. Learn from your mistakes and try to do better next time!
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