Children often become the innocent victims of a divorce. Feelings of loss, confusion, fear, and anxiety can develop during the process and can continue to affect them well after the divorce is finalized. They generally don’t want their parents to split up and are worried about what their new life will be like. They may be concerned with whether they will need to move, how much they will be able to see their mom and dad or possibly be worried that they somehow caused their parents’ divorce.
During a divorce, children need calm, consistency, and reassurance. They need to know their parents still love them and want what is best for them. Divorcing parents need to make their children’s well-being the top priority during their divorce and give them the nurturing, comfort, and support they need to get through this life-changing event.
What Parents Should NOT Do During and After a Divorce
Going through a divorce is an emotionally sensitive and stressful time for you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse. However, it is crucial to keep your focus on your children and make the transition as simple and healthy as possible. The following are 10 things a parent should not do during and after a divorce.
1. Don’t speak negatively about your spouse.
Not making negative comments about your spouse can be challenging when you are going through a divorce because you may be feeling hurt, resentful, and angry. But it is crucial to not only avoid badmouthing your soon-to-be-ex to your children, but also to other people. Do not discuss the matter with your children and those close to your children or spouse and keep the details and your feelings about the divorce off social media. For your children’s sake, it is best to take the high road and be respectful of your spouse. You must also remember that the things you say to your children and others may be used against you in the divorce.
2. Don’t put your children in the middle.
Avoid using your children to relay information, spy on the other parent, or tell you about your spouse’s activities. If you want to know something, ask your spouse directly, and if you need to relay information or change plans, discuss it with your spouse. If your spouse asked your child not to say anything, it could put your child in a position of either having to lie to you or going against the other parent’s wishes. Similarly, it is best not to ask your children to lie for you or not to share information with your spouse.
3. Don’t ignore verbal and physical signs from your children.
Dealing with a divorce is difficult. But it is important to know your children are likely struggling with the situation, too. They may be scared, sad, and worried about what is happening to their family, so we recommend closely monitoring your child’s mental, emotional, and physical health and well-being. Verbal and physical signs can signal how your child is handling the divorce and alert you to any potential problems. Look for signs, such as changes in eating and sleeping, withdrawal from family or friends, and difficulties focusing at school or at home. If you see any concerning signs, speak with your child’s doctor or seek help from a child or family therapist.
4. Don’t keep your children in the dark but don’t tell them too much, either.
Depending on your children’s ages and maturity levels, be as honest as you can when speaking to your children about what is happening. Encouraging them to ask questions and discuss their feelings is an effective way to keep them informed while addressing any concerns or uncertainty they are experiencing. It is also important not to give them too much information. Be sure not to tell them things they shouldn’t know, won’t understand, or can be upsetting.
5. Don’t vent to your children.
Sharing with your kids is important but make sure you don’t load your problems on them. A parent needs someone to talk to when dealing with the emotions felt during a divorce, but it is essential not to treat your child like a counselor. Venting to them about your and your spouse’s issues puts them in a position to provide emotional support. Your children are likely dealing with their own emotions and concerns and shouldn’t have to cope with the stress and worry of helping you with your emotions and concerns as well. It is always best to confide in a trusted friend or licensed counselor if you need someone to talk to.
6. Don’t forget to spend quality time with them.
Children need the love, support, and attention of their parents. Because you are going through a divorce doesn’t mean your children should be pushed aside. Although you have a lot on your mind and are dealing with what will be your new reality, make sure you keep your focus on your kids. Play their favorite game, cook together, go to the park, or plan a fun trip. Be sure to spend plenty of quality time with them because they need you now more than ever.
7. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
In an effort to keep your children’s minds off of the divorce or to give them something to look forward to, you may end up making promises you can’t keep. Promising your children you will take them on vacation you never go on or telling them you will buy them a new bike that you ultimately never get can damage their trust in you. You may also say things that aren’t true to reassure them, such as telling them you and your spouse may reconcile when you know that is not going to be the case. Your children need to be reassured by knowing that what you say is true, so it is best not to break your promises.
8. Don’t interfere with parenting time.
A child needs quality time with both of their parents to get the love, affection, and support they need. Unfortunately, many parents interfere with their child’s time with the other parent by canceling parenting time, limiting parenting time, and consistently being early or late for pickups and drop-offs. They may also call, text, and email their child excessively while they are with the other parent, disrupting their time together. It is always best not to interfere with your parenting time arrangement and limit the amount of communication with your child during their time together.
9. Don’t use child support as a weapon.
It is every parent’s responsibility to contribute financially to their child’s upbringing. Not paying child support out of anger or resentment toward the other parent robs a child of the financial assistance they are entitled to. In addition, if a child support order is in place and you do not pay, you may be held in contempt of court. You will likely have to pay fines in addition to any overdue child support and, in some cases, may face jail time.
10. Don’t drastically change the family dynamics.
Children need stability and consistency to thrive. During a divorce, so much of their world changes. Although change is inevitable in a divorce, it is essential to make every effort to keep things as normal as possible. Try to maintain as much of their previous routine and continue as many of their activities as possible. Please make an effort to keep things consistent in their lives so they have a sense of stability and comfort.
Ohio Divorce Attorneys
Divorce can be a difficult experience and even more challenging when children are involved. Remember to take things day by day and always keep your children’s health and well-being in mind. Our Canton child custody lawyers have helped families successfully navigate the divorce process for over 30 years. If you need help with matters relating to divorce, child support, child custody, or any other family law matter, we welcome you to contact our firm for a free consultation. We can discuss your situation and explain the many ways we can help.