Q & A: How can a parent best handle responses from children during a divorce to ensure the parent is setting a responsible and respectful example for the children?

First and foremost, it is always important take the high road in a divorce. In other words, operate in daily life under the assumption that each thing you say or do will be documented and shown to the Judge overseeing the case. To reach this goal, it is very important to share the following rules with your children and never reprimand them if they give you the following feedback:

  • Do not talk badly about my other parent. Translation: this makes me feel torn apart and also makes me feel bad about myself.
  • Do not talk badly about my other parent’s friends or relatives. Translation: Let me care for someone even if you do not.
  • Do not talk about the divorce or other grown-up stuff. Translation: this makes me feel sick. Please leave me out of it.
  • Do not talk about money or child support. Translation: this makes me feel guilty or like I am a possession instead of your child.
  • Do not make me feel bad when I enjoy my time with my other parent. Translation: this makes me afraid to tell you things.
  • Do not block my visits or prevent me from speaking to my other parent on the phone. Translation: this makes me very upset.
  • Do not interrupt my time with my other parent by calling too much or by planning my activities during our time together.
  • Do not argue in front of me or on the phone when I can hear you. Translation: this turns my stomach inside out.
  • Do not ask me to spy for you when I am at my other parent’s home. Translation: this makes me feel disloyal and dishonest.
  • Do not ask me to keep secrets from my other parent. Translation: secrets make me feel anxious.
  • Do not ask me questions about my other parent’s life or about or time together. Translation: this makes me feel uncomfortable, so just let me tell you.
  • Do not give me verbal messages to deliver to my other parent. Translation: I end up feeling anxious about their reaction. Please just call them, leave a message at work, or put a note in the mail or email.
  • Do not send written messages with me or place them in my bag. Translation: this also makes me uncomfortable.
  • Do not blame my other parent for the divorce or things that go wrong in your life. Translation: this really feels terrible. I end up wanting to defend him/her from your attack. Sometimes it makes me feel sorry for you and that makes me want to protect you. I just want to be a kid, so please stop putting me into the middle.
  • Do not treat me like an adult. It causes way too much stress for me. Translation: please find a friend or therapist to talk with.
  • Do not ignore my other parent or sit on the opposite sides of the room during my school or sports activities. Translation: this makes me very sad and embarrassed. Please act like parents and be friendly, even if it is just for me.
  • Do let me take items to my other home as long as I can carry them back and forth. Translation: otherwise it feels like you are treating me like a possession.
  • Do not use guilt or pressure to love you more and do not ask me where I want to live.
  • Do realize that I have to homes, not just one. It does not matter how much time I spend there. I would also really appreciate if you would let my other parent come into our house every not and then because it is my home too.
  • Do let me love both of you and see each of you as much as possible. Be flexible even when it is not part of your regular schedule.

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