While some marriages end amicably with both parties looking hopefully toward the future, it is not uncommon for spouses to get into heated debates on nearly every topic. From support and property division to debt responsibility and parenting plans, negotiating a compromise can often devolve into a shouting match. It is crucial for divorcing parents to remember, however, that your children are innocent bystanders that must be protected at all costs.
It is easy to let past disputes and emotionally charged debates overtake your daily life. Unfortunately, when these negative emotions begin coloring your words and actions, it is typically the children who suffer. Depending on their age, your children likely do not have the coping mechanisms in place and the world view that allows them to see your marriage in an objective light. They depend on your cues to inform their own actions and reactions. It is not uncommon, however, for some divorcing parents to let their dislike, mistrust or outright hatred of their soon-to-be ex-spouse to overwhelm what is in the child’s best interests.
5 things divorcing parents should always remember
While there is no one size fits all strategy for the countless types of divorce that exist, here are five things that can help guide you past emotionally injuring your children.
- Do not use parenting plan changes as punishments: Whether you are late to the child custody exchange purely out of spite, or you change plans at the last minute and withdraw your approval for an overseas vacation, your hatred of your ex is only truly hurting your child.
- Do not skip child support payments: While there is a legal process in place to enforce support payments, you might initially consider this as an act of revenge. However, your children need food, clothes and a roof over their head and your support payments exist to make this possible. If you have issues with the way your ex is spending the payment, go through the legal process rather than withholding money.
- Do not talk bad about your ex around the children: Parental Alienation Syndrome is a real thing. Children are impressionable, and their emotions can be easily swayed. If you are belittling your ex around the kids, you are hurting their relationship with the other parent.
- Do not interrogate your children after time spent with your ex: The children should be encouraged to love their time with the other parent. If you begin to grill them, you put the children in a position where they are uncomfortable talking to you about your ex. Children can allow these negative feelings to influence their overall impression of the other parent, coloring future interactions.
- Do not make your child feel guilty about loving your ex: The healthy growth and maturation of a child is reliant upon strong relationships with both parents. If you make them feel guilty or try to undermine their emotions about your ex, you are only hurting the kids.
Too often, an individual will become obsessed with the “I hate my ex” culture that exists. Words, thoughts and actions begin to feed into themselves enforcing this negativity and spiraling out of control. While it is unhealthy for you to think this way, it can be emotionally destructive to allow your child to be engulfed in the whirlwind of emotional pain.