When parents divorce, they should avoid unnecessary battles that can hurt their kids’ relationships with either parent. Unfortunately, sometimes the negative feelings from the divorce can lead to parents acting inappropriately. A fairly common behavior is for one parent to share too many details about the divorce with their children, typically, to make the other parent appear to be more to blame. If this happens, the parent who didn’t say anything often wants to respond by sharing additional information in defense, which can make matters worse for the children. What is the best response to this problem?
What Should You Say to Your Kids About Your Divorce?
Your children don’t need to know specifics of why you are divorcing other than in very general and neutral terms. Once you decide to divorce, ideally, you and your spouse should present a united front in telling your children about the divorce calmly and without accusations. You should both focus on helping your kids deal with the impact of divorce and avoid any behaviors or actions that increase their stress including making disparaging remarks about each other or revealing information that tends to cast a negative light on either of you. Children should not feel their loyalties pulled between them and their spouses because that can have a serious effect on their mental health and their relationships with everyone in their lives.
If you are not sure what to do or say, it is best to consult a family or child therapist who can help you with challenges such as how to tell your children, how to help them manage through the transition, and how to support them so that their suffering is minimized as much as possible.
How Should You Respond If Your Kids Hear Details About the Divorce that Make You Look Bad?
Most people’s natural instinct when they feel attacked is to try to defend themselves. Unfortunately, when the issue relates to children and divorce, that reaction may not be best for the kids. Telling your children that their other parent lied or explaining why you did what you did may only confuse them further. They may feel more insecure and stressed because they don’t know who to believe and whether to take sides. At the same time, you shouldn’t lie to them. Your goal should be to neutralize whatever your spouse said and focus on reassuring your children that you are there for them and they shouldn’t choose sides. A therapist can help you formulate a proper response.
From a legal standpoint, your spouse’s actions may have repercussions when it comes to deciding custody and visitation. An important factor in determining custody is “[e]ach parent’s ability to cooperate with the other parent and to encourage a relationship with him or her when it is safe to do so.” Your spouse could lose custody or face other repercussions if he/she interferes with your relationship particularly if the actions rise to the level of parental alienation. This can occur when a parent’s behavior creates or exacerbates that child’s animosity towards his/her other parent and the child refuses to see the other parent. You should document any instances of troubling behavior by your spouse and share them with your attorney.
If you are considering separation or divorce or think that your spouse is, you should consult an experienced attorney to discuss your rights. Please contact us to learn how we can assist you in achieving a positive outcome so you can move on to the next stage of your life.